Boeing tests a squadron of five autonomous mini-jets

Boeing has announced that it has successfully carried out flight tests using five high-performance pilotless jet aircraft. The aircraft operated as a team without any intervention required from humans. Testing was conducted at the Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, Australia. It demonstrated the aircraft's ability to use onboard command and control along with data sharing capabilities, allowing collaboration amongst the squadron.

Each of the small jets is about 11-feet and uses autonomous technology that is beyond autopilot navigation systems. Boeing says the autonomous system can be programmed, but it can also be taught and learn on its own using advanced sensors, real-time processors, and data-link capability. Those capabilities allow the aircraft to communicate directly with other aircraft, platforms, and ground control with no humans needed.

The autonomous system has the ability to refuse commands that would place it outside of its operating parameters. An example is it couldn't be forced to crash. Testing on the aircraft was conducted over a ten-day period and saw the squadron operate as a team of five at speeds up to 167 mph. The aircraft shared data amongst themselves and determine how to complete their assigned missions.

Boeing's Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project is being conducted in partnership with the Queensland government. The goal is to develop onboard autonomous command-and-control tech able to gather and process data and communicate with other machines to complete missions. The system can also be used in robotic quadcopters and larger jet aircraft.

The test aircraft shown in the video above looks almost like a giant remote-controlled aircraft. It's unclear when the technology might be integrated into larger aircraft. The tech certainly sounds like something that might find its way into military drone aircraft of the future.