Boeing Australia’s Loyal Wingman made its first high-speed taxi test in preparation for its maiden flight, which is scheduled for early 2021. During the test runs, the specialists monitored the aircraft’s performance and instrumentation from a ground control station to verify the functionality while the vehicle reached accelerated speeds.
Ground test of the unmanned Loyal Wingman began in September 2020. During the first stage of ground testing, specialists checked the engine, fuel system, and correct onboard equipment operation. Since the end of October this year, the drone has been undergoing low-, medium-, and high-speed taxi testing at a remote test location in Australia.
Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force will resume final taxi tests and preparations for flight in early 2021 when the range reopens. “Our test program is progressing well, and we are happy with the ground test data we have collected to date,” said Paul Ryder, Boeing Flight Test manager. “We are working with the Air Warfare Centre to complete the final test verifications to prepare for flight testing in the new year.”
The Loyal Wingman, which is being developed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), has a length of 11 meters and a wingspan of 11.7 meters. The device is made on a modular basis. The payload for the drone will be housed in removable nose bays 2.6 meters long. The device will be able to fly at a distance of up to 3,700 km (2,300 miles), carrying additional weapons or detection and surveillance systems.
Utilizing AI (artificial intelligence), it carries out missions such as information gathering, alert monitoring, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in cooperation with other manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. A total of three prototypes will be manufactured. For Boeing, it will be the largest investment in unmanned aerial vehicles outside the United States. More than 35 Australian suppliers on the Australian industry team have contributed to the aircraft development, including investment partner BAE Systems Australia, which has been embedded with the Boeing test team on-site.