Under the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program, San Francisco-based autonomous aviation company Xwing will conduct a series of autonomous flight trials via its Superpilot flight system to accelerate the use of remote operations in commercial and military aviation.
The Air Force’s AFWERX Prime program launched in 2020 and leverages government resources to fast-track emerging technologies for commercial markets and the military. The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract from AFWERX will utilize Xwing’s existing autonomous flight technologies, including flight control systems, collision avoidance systems, auto braking, auto taxi, and remote operations software.
Xwing and the Air Force will complete flight tests and other trials over the next 21 months in northern California using Xwing’s Cessna 208B, the same platform in which the company demonstrated an autonomous gate-to-gate flight in 2021.
Through the trials, both entities will glean real-world mission data, track the performance of the onboard detect-and-avoid perception stack, and be able to identify areas for additional development to meet mission specifications.
The Air Force hopes eventually to utilize Xwing’s technologies and operate aircraft remotely in a variety of different mission-specific scenarios like cargo delivery, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and medevac work, as well as keeping pilots out of high-risk scenarios, and reducing flight costs.