Boeing Australia has expressed its plan to make a jet drone with artificial intelligence that can act as a “loyal wingman” for manned jet fighters. Artificial intelligence is already sweeping into the drone industry. We’ve seen drones which can operate independently and make decisions on their own. IBM has also patented a drone’s concept which can detect when an employee is droopy and in dire need of coffee.

The Airpower Teaming System

This system will enable the drone to fly independently or in support of other manned aircraft while maintaining a safe distance between other aircraft. The 38-foot long drone is equipped with a single-engine which gives it a range of 2000 miles (3,200 Km). The drone can engage and swap roles between enhanced warfare, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

“Our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects airpower,” Kristin Robertson, vice president, and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems said in a statement.

Boeing showcased a model of the drone at the Australia International Airshow 2019 in Melbourne. The drone is being called ‘Loyal Wingman’.

Loyal wingman by Boeing
Loyal Wingman at the Melbourne Airshow and expo

Air Marshal Leo Davies, chief of RAAF, said in an interview that if the drone is programmed to learn, it will learn just linearly. It is not emotional, in sense of air combat, it is quite inflexible. Thus, to make it more agile, they would require the creativity and emotionally assessing skills of a pilot along with artificial intelligence to make a perfect mix of a flawless aerial system.

Future Plans

Boeing also said that they would look forward to exporting the drone to allied countries once production becomes possible. The Australian built drones if sold to other allied nations, would be in sync with Canberra’s Defense Export Strategy. It is a 10-year-plan introduced a year ago. Its main aim is making Australia one of the world’s top 10 defense suppliers while building a manufacturing base at home.

“Exports will provide our defense industry with greater certainty of future investment and support high-end manufacturing jobs for Australians for generations to come,” the government said.

The high-tech AI drones will take their first flight, as planned, in 2020: