The aircraft, developed with the Royal Australian Air Force, has hit a key milestone, moving under its own power for the first time.
Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, produced for the Royal Australian Air Force, is one step closer to making its first flight after completing its first taxi.
“Air Force partners with industry to ensure we can find innovative solutions to meet our future priorities,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, said.
“Boeing’s Loyal Wingman project is a perfect example of what this collaborative approach can achieve.
“Seeing the prototype take to the runway for this low-speed taxi test is an exciting moment – another significant development milestone ahead of its first flight.”
Boeing’s Loyal Wingman reached a maximum speed of 14 knots (approximately 26 kilometres per hour) on the ground, demonstrating several activities while manoeuvring and stopping on command.
“The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion,” Paul Ryder, Boeing Australia flight test manager, added.
The Loyal Wingman has been designed to fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence for teaming missions.
The unmanned aerial system has advanced design and flight characteristics, including a customisable modular nose section, and a conventional take-off and landing approach.
Dr Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System, said, “Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers.
“This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometres, enabling Defence to better understand how these types of aircraft can be used as a force-multiplier, helping to project power forward while keeping manned capabilities out of harm’s way.
The aircraft was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and full life cycle requirements; manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece; and assembled using proven advanced manufacturing processes.
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight in late-2020.