The United States Air Force will evaluate cooperative flight of several unmanned aircraft flying in constellation formation, while simultaneously distributing sensor control and viewing capability among multiple end users. The test will utilize the SkyForce Distributed Management System (DMS) developed by Proxy Aviation, controlling SkyWatcher and SkyRaider UAVs, also produced by Proxy.
The first phase of demonstrations took place early February 2007 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where a single SkyWatcher successfully demonstrated cooperative flight with three simulated UAVs. SkyForce DMS is designed to control up to 12 fully autonomous air vehicles engaging in concurrent, cooperative flight. The system enables each vehicle to make fully independent decisions during flight, contributing to the group tactical goal, without any human intervention.
In the first flight phase conducted at Eglin Test Range , a single SkyWatcher UAV successfully demonstrated cooperative flight with three simulated SkyWatchers, each UAV performing a different role and operating a unique sensor package. The cooperative constellation demonstrated adaptive autonomy using SkyForce DMS and the Virtual Pilot capability that are key software components of the SkyForce system. The single SkyWatcher flew four simulated constellation maneuvers and autonomously operated an onboard FLIR sensor, a thermal imaging and infrared camera, while simultaneously maneuvering with the other three UAVs through several operational scenarios.