Conducted at a regional Queensland airfield, the test flights saw five UAV test beds equipped with Boeing’s new on-board system safely complete in-air programmed missions as a team without input from a human pilot. (Image source: Boeing)

Boeing completes autonomous synchronized flight tests in Australia

Australian-developed onboard command and control system automatically perceives, processes, and reacts in coordination with other unmanned vehicles.
Chicago-based Boeing has successfully completed the first suite of synchronized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight tests using new onboard autonomous command and control technology developed by the company in Australia.

At a regional airfield in Queensland, five UAVs – or drones – equipped with Boeing’s new onboard system safely completed in-air programmed missions as a team without input from a human pilot. The milestone comes six months after establishing the company’s largest international autonomous systems development program in Queensland: Boeing’s Advance Queensland Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project.

“What we’ve created here in Australia has the potential to transform the use of unmanned vehicles for civil, commercial, and defense applications – whether that be in the air, on the ground, or out at sea,” says Shane Arnott, director of Boeing Phantom Works International.

“This capability will be a huge driver of efficiency and productivity. By safely teaming unmanned systems with human operated systems, we keep people away from dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks so [humans] can focus on activities that machines can’t or shouldn’t do,” continues Arnott.

Boeing’s partnership with small and medium-sized enterprises helped drive rapid design, development and testing of this autonomous technology. In just two months, Boeing vetted and issued approximately $1.7 million in contracts with 14 Queensland businesses.

This investment in Queensland technology enterprises follows Queensland’s successful bid to host the Australia’s first Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) – in this case, for Trusted Autonomous Systems – an approximately $37 million center in Brisbane to develop drone and robotics technology for the Australian Defence Force.

Over the coming months, the Boeing Australia team will incorporate and test more advanced behaviors on high-performance air vehicles before exploring other domains such as unmanned ocean vehicles.

"Our program will complement the work undertaken by the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, taking research outcomes and developing them into exportable commercial products for the global autonomous market," said Arnott in a statement made in March.

The establishment of the CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems and involvement of Boeing’s Advance Queensland Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project are results of the Queensland government’s drone strategy to draw together industry, researchers, and local businesses to work with national defense organizations to develop new technologies for drones and other unmanned vehicles, like artificial intelligence and robotics.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include 'literally anything that has to do with space,' past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology. And also sportscars.
Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at
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