Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

8 The US Air Force Research Laboratory has flown its Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) autonomous jet aircraft for the first time (writes Nick Flaherty). The 28 ft (8.8 m) XQ-67A uncrewed air vehicle (UAV) is the first of a second generation of autonomous collaborative platforms (ACP) as part of the loyal wingman programme in the US. This is the first use of a common airframe that will be used for other aircraft, says Doug Meador, autonomous collaborative platform capability lead at AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate. This approach paves the way for other variations of the UAV to be rapidly replicated on a standard chassis. “This approach will help save time and money by leveraging standard substructures and subsystems, similar to how the automotive industry builds a range of vehicles,” said Meador. “From there, we can build other aircraft – similar to that of a vehicle frame – with the possibility of adding different aircraft kits to the frame, such as an OBSS or Off-Board Weapons Station [OBWS]. “We broke it down into autonomy, human systems integration, sensor and weapons payloads, networks and communications, and the air vehicle. We’ve been evolving this class of systems since the start of the Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technologies [LCAAT] initiative [in 2015],” he added. “We had always intended from the start of LCAAT to have multiple vehicle-development spirals or threads of vehicle development,” said Trenton White, the OBSS programme manager. “Then, once the vehicle is proven ready, you can start integrating stuff with it, such as sensors, autonomy, weapons, payloads and electronics.” This uses a new development approach termed a “genus” as the foundational core architecture from which several “species” of aircraft can be built. The developer, General Atomics, said unspecified advancements in manufacturing technology since the first-generation XQ-58 Valkyrie aircraft built by Kratos will allow a usable aircraft to be created faster at a lower cost, with a new species of UAV rolled out every few years using the same basic platform. The XQ-67A is designed to fly up to 45,000 ft (13,715 m) for a range of 2,200 miles (3500 km) at over 600 mph. “The main objectives are to validate an open aircraft system concept for hardware and software, and to demonstrate rapid time-to-market and low development cost,” said White. Carrying sensors, the OBSS is slower but has longer endurance than the OBWS, which is faster and more manoeuvrable with better range. Autonomous aircraft Common UAV platform for sensing systems Platform one April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The autonomous XQ-67A is designed to fly up to 45,000 ft for a range of 2,200 miles at over 600 mph The main objectives are to validate an open aircraft system concept for hardware and software, and to demo rapid time-tomarket and low dev cost