Boeing has created an Unmanned Systems unit within its Military Aircraft & Missile Systems sector to increase its focus on an area expected to be a billion-dollar business within 10 years. The company says the move is "not connected to" its recent loss of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

The new business unit is headquartered in St Louis, Missouri, and will consolidate all work within Boeing on unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). The most significant of these are the US Air Force X-45 UCAV and US Navy X-47 naval UCAV technology demonstration programmes, both managed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The Unmanned Systems unit is headed by Mike Heinz, former Boeing JSF deputy programme manager. He will report directly to Military Aircraft & Missile Systems chief executive Jerry Daniels and to George Meullner, president of Boeing's Phantom Works research organisation where most of the UAV and UCAV work now resides.

"We will look at the whole spectrum of unmanned applications: from low-end, low-cost expendable vehicles to high-end, highly survivable vehicles; from combat to ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]; from air vehicles to ground and mission control systems," says Heinz. The focus will be military systems, but other applications will not be ruled out, he says.

Objectives include "making unmanned systems a significant part of Boeing's operating plan over the next decade", says Heinz.

Source: Flight International