Boeing’s Loyal Wingman drone has reached another achievement, successfully powering its turbofan engine up for the first time. The achievement means the autonomous combat drone is one step closer to being deployed.

A team of 16 has used digital engineering and advanced composite materials to create an 11.7-meter (38-foot) drone to suit specific price and agility goals. The drone has also been designed to use artificial intelligence alongside manned and unmanned systems. The Loyal Wingman is said to have a range of 2,301 miles and performs similarly to a fighter jet.

Australian Industry participation has allowed the drone to be produced rapidly with various companies including, BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, Ferra Engineering, and AME Systems, working together to build key systems.

The Loyal Wingman drone will provide the Australian Army with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities depending on the payload equipped to the drone. We don’t currently know what payloads the drone will have in terms of weaponry if any.

Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System told New Atlas:

“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team. We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”

Air Commodore Darren Goldie, RAAF Director-General of Air Combat Capability said:

“The partnership with Boeing is key to building our understanding of not just the operational implications for these sorts of vehicles, but also making us a smart customer as we consider options for manned-unmanned teaming in the coming decade. Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months.”

You can watch the combat drone powering on its engine for the first time by watching the video below.

Photo: Boeing Australia

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