CHICAGO, 22 June 2005. A Boeing Co.-led team of experts demonstrated autonomous software-based flight-control technologies that could improve new generations of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The effort is part of the Software Enabled Control program (SEC) of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with technical direction from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.
The demonstration flight May 26 involved the DARPA Renegade helicopter UAV, modified to include SEC hardware and software. The SEC software controlled the Renegade with autonomous maneuvering algorithms developed by university teams. The flight was at Victorville, Calif.
Working with Boeing are teams from the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif.; the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. the SEC software is based on a Boeing Open Control Platform (OCP) architecture.
"The SEC program provides the control technology necessary to fully exploit the unique features and capabilities of unmanned platforms, and helps them realize their potential for tactical operations," said Dr. John Bay, DARPA Software-Enabled Control program manager.
The OCP provides a middleware platform and runtime framework that integrates with control design tools to enable rapid prototyping and integration of advanced control technologies such as vision-based autonomous landing, autonomous optimal vehicle routing, neural network-based flight control, aggressive maneuvering, and envelope protection.
The OCP-based software was demonstrated first during the fixed-wing phase of the SEC program in July 2004 when an F-15E jet fighter-bomber used a fixed-wing UAV as a partner in coordinated combat operations. The recent demonstration with the Renegade UAV represented a critical risk reduction in preparation for another SEC-Renegade flight in early 2006.
DARPA's Renegade UAV is based on the Boeing Maverick helicopter UAV, which serves as the avionics test bed for the A160 Hummingbird. The A160 is an unmanned helicopter that Boeing Phantom Works is developing for DARPA to fly 2,500 nautical miles with endurance in excess of 24 hours and payloads of more than 300 pounds.
For more information contact Boeing online at www.boeing.com/phantom/flash.html.
Ken Graeb photo