American aerospace firm Boeing has demonstrated a P-8A Poseidon aircraft controlling an MQ-25 Stingray drone in-flight.

The demonstration was a follow-up on one held last year in which a Stingray drone was controlled by an F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft while performing aerial refueling.

The Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft conducted intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

According to Boeing, the new open autonomy architecture for the MQ-25 will allow the US Navy to increase mission effectiveness by integrating a manned-unmanned teaming capability.

“Using their existing operational flight program software and data links, the aircraft safely and efficiently tasked four virtual, autonomous MQ-25s to conduct ISR missions,” the Virginia-based firm stated.

‘Fielding Critical Warfighting Capability’

During the recent demonstration, the Poseidon tasked an MQ-25 teammate to survey no-fly zones.

The drone then utilized its onboard autonomy framework developed by Aurora Flight Sciences (AFS) to validate the command against its operational constraints, plan a route, and conduct a search pattern.

“Aurora’s robust software development kit enables our Navy teammates to rapidly integrate new capabilities,” AFS vice president Graham Drozeski said. “The platform abstraction demonstration met test objectives for resource sharing between multiple onboard systems and supervisors.”

MQ-25 Advanced Design director Don Gaddis explained that “large swaths of ocean” could be effectively surveyed and targets identified when the Stingray drone is teamed with carrier-based assets such as the Poseidon.

He stated that the recently-concluded test showed how a digital, open approach to manned-unmanned teaming is key to “fielding critical warfighting capability at much lower cost and with greater speed and agility.”

Boeing said it would continue to refine the autonomous technology, including its sensors and crew vehicle interfaces, for improved manned-unmanned teaming.

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