General Atomics affiliate General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., or GA-ASI, manufacturer of the popular MQ-9A Reaper and the legendary medium-altitude, long-endurance MQ-1 Predator, is accelerating its development of autonomous Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (or UCAVs).
In its July UCAV flight tests conducted from the company’s Desert Horizon Flight Operations Facility in El Mirage, California, the company combined advanced autonomy with government-provided human-machine interface hardware. Using the Predator C Avenger drone along with a virtual twin to perform combat missions on its own, the flights tested the UCAV’s autonomous capabilities, leveraging artificial intelligence.
GA-ASI’s team demonstrated how the UCAVs can work together effectively with human pilots using the US Air Force’s Project FoX system, a touchscreen tablet for fighter cockpits. The tablet was used to provide control and monitoring of autonomous UCAV’s while conducting a multi-objective combat mission.
The Fighter Optimisation Experiment (FoX) is a project that aims to create an agile tool to integrate advanced software and hardware technologies, and so maximise the effectiveness of jet fighters.
The autonomous capabilities of the UCAV, produced as a result of deep reinforcement learning algorithms, were focused on the optimised search and signature management to identify military targets. Search optimisation autonomy behaviors were provided by Massachusetts-based autonomous systems specialists Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI) for the AI modelling for these UCAV systems. The UCAV could also adapt to changes during the mission, like equipment failures or loss of communication. These autonomous capabilities were integrated in order that they could be monitored and controlled by the FoX touch screen.
By integrating advanced autonomous systems, US Air Force systems and touch screen interfaces, GA-ASI aims to enable human pilots to work with UCAV’s more easily, making faster decisions and increasing combat effectiveness.
In addition, GA-ASI is developing an ecosystem to enable the military to rapidly integrate best-of-breed capabilities in AI and other mission-relevant interfaces for use with autonomous UCAV. These could one day simply be added by users from an app store.
by Carrington Malin