Beyond-line-of-sight control of a Boeing X-45A unmanned combat air vehicle via satellite communications has been demonstrated for the first time. During a flight last month, command of the air vehicle was transferred from a local operator at Edwards AFB, California to a mission controller in Seattle, Washington.

Via UHF satcom, the Seattle operator controlled the aircraft for 6min, sending four airspeed and altitude change commands that were received and executed by the vehicle before control was handed back to the local Edwards operator.

The flight was part of continuing tests of the latest Block 3 software for the X-45A under the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) programme involving the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, US Air Force and US Navy. These tests include autonomous co-ordinated flights of the two X-45A air vehicles controlled by a single operator.

In flights last month, the two X-45As demonstrated the ability to enter and exit co-ordinated flight autonomously based on pre-identified waypoints, and to dynamically change the formation in all three axes simultaneously. A Block 3 flight in November demonstrated "4-D" navigation, which allows the vehicles to control time of arrival over a specified location while maintaining relative position.

Boeing says the software used on the X-45As may be offered as a candidate for elements of the J-UCAS common operating system, to be developed by a consortium of Boeing, Northrop Grumman and integrator/broker Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.


Source: Flight International