One Wing, No Pilot, No Problem

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A recent flight test showed that an unmanned, autonomous F/A-18 jet aircraft may be able to land safely even after losing almost 60 percent of a wing, Rockwell Collins said this week. Athena Technologies, a division of the company, conducted the test this spring flying a scale-model airplane. The control systems automatically adapted to the loss of control surface, the company said, and then landed safely, using internal Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System reference only. Rockwell Collins says the capability could be applicable to all commercial, business and general aviation aircraft for full flight automation and backup, as well as for military aircraft in combat. "This powerful capability can save the military the expense of lost UAVs," said David Vos, senior director of Control Technologies at Rockwell Collins. "But more importantly, the solution can save lives."

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored the flight demonstrations, which were conducted at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Click here to view videos of the flights.