Boeing Completes Successful Autonomous Flight Control Technology Program
Boeing Completes Successful Autonomous Flight Control
Saint Louis, Missouri -- (Boeing) March 16,
2006 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] and a team of university scientists have completed a
highly successful multi-year research program to develop and demonstrate cutting
edge flight control technologies that dramatically enhance the autonomous
operations of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Boeing Phantom Works and a team of
university scientists used this DARPA Renegade unmanned rotorcraft to conduct
flight tests as part of a highly successful multi-year research program to
develop and demonstrate cutting edge flight control technologies that
dramatically enhance the autonomous operations of advanced UAVs. The flight
demonstrations, the last of which was conducted on Feb. 23, took place at
The autonomous flight control technologies were developed
under the Software Enabled Control (SEC) program sponsored by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with technical direction from the U.S.
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
During flight demonstrations, the last of which took place on
Feb. 23 before U.S. Department of Defense and NASA observers at Victorville,
Calif., the SEC software assumed control of a DARPA Renegade rotorcraft UAV and
successfully executed a series of advanced maneuvers.
The autonomous maneuvers included flying optimal routes
through a field of pop-up and already-known threats; flying low-level,
terrain-hugging profiles to avoid detection; and determining safe landing zones
by using vision-based algorithms to process landing site imagery and terrain
"Advanced technologies developed under the SEC program
provide for a very cost-effective approach to enhancing the tactical
effectiveness of unmanned platforms, providing a low-risk mechanism for the
rapid integration of advanced autonomous flight control capabilities," said
Patrick Stokes, Boeing Phantom Works manager of Contracted R&D Network-Centric
Operations programs. "And these autonomous behaviors can be integrated without
the need for costly modifications to the vehicle's existing flight software."
Developed by Boeing Phantom Works and teams from the
University of California-Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology and
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the SEC software is based on the Boeing
Open Control Platform (OCP) architecture.
The OCP paves the way for rapid prototyping and easy
integration of advanced control technologies developed under the SEC program.
These technologies include vision-based autonomous landing, autonomous optimal
vehicle routing, aggressive maneuvering and flight envelope protection.
The OCP-based software also was demonstrated during earlier
phases of the SEC program. These demonstrations involved fixed wing UAVs,
including the ScanEagle (developed by Boeing and The Insitu Group) as well as
manned and unmanned collaborative exercises in which an F-15E used a fixed-wing
UAV as a partner in coordinated combat operation flight scenarios.
The DARPA Renegade rotorcraft UAV is based on the Boeing
Maverick rotorcraft UAV, which serves as the avionics test bed for the A160
Hummingbird, an unmanned helicopter that Boeing is developing for DARPA.
"Our efforts on SEC, culminating with the capstone flight
demonstration on the Renegade, have allowed our Boeing team to mine the best
technology from SEC and support transition to the A160 and Maverick UAVs," said
Dr. James Paunicka, Boeing Phantom Works technical lead on the SEC program.