Military Embedded Systems

AI-enabled unmanned "wingman" project for USAF awards four contracts


July 27, 2020

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Conceptual design for Skyborg. Artwork courtesy AFRL.

WASHINGTON The U.S. Air Force has chosen Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Kratos to move forward in the Air Force program to build an AI-enabled drone wingman known as Skyborg; each company will operate under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract worth as much as $400 million.

Seed money was not allocated at the time of the award, according to information from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), because the companies will have to compete against each other for future orders.

DoD information shows that the Skyborg prototyping, experimentation, and autonomy development contract will be used to deliver missionized unmanned aerial system (UAS) prototypes in support of operational experimentation. The goal, say Air Force officials, is to develop the first Skyborg air platform with modular hardware and software payloads that will incorporate the Skyborg autonomy core system and use artificial intelligence (AI) to enable manned/unmanned teaming.  

“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple playbook algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” said Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, the Air Force Research Laboratory commander­­. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture UAS.”

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