Tom Cruise will be flying high (again) in Top Gun 2 come summer 2020.
Could Top Gun 3 be far behind?
There are no plans yet, but don’t be surprised if the next Maverick or Goose is a drone robot.
This past month, the Air Force Research Laboratory and DZYNE Technologies successfully tested the Robotic Pilot Unmanned Conversion Program – the aptly named ROBOpilot – at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
The concept’s pretty simple – ROBOpilot can be installed by removing the pilot’s seat and replacing it with a frame containing an equipment package – actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm.
“Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration,” said Dr. Alok Das, Senior Scientist with AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation. “All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.”
ROBOpilot can move the aircraft’s yoke, push rudders and brakes, control the throttle, flip the appropriate switches and read the dashboard gauges the same way a pilot does.
“This non-invasive approach to robotically piloted aircraft leverages existing commercial technology and components. ROBOpilot incorporates many subsystems and lessons learned from previous AFRL and DZYNE Technology aircraft conversion programs.”
The system uses sensors, like GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit, for situational awareness and information gathering. A computer analyzes the details and determines how best to control the flight.
“ROBOpilot offers the benefits of unmanned operations without the complexity and upfront cost associated with the development of new unmanned vehicles,” Das added.
“This flight test is a testament to AFRL’s ability to rapidly innovate technology from concept to application in a safe build-up approach while still maintaining low cost and short timelines,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL Commander.
AFRL is the Air Force’s primary scientific research and development center. The group collaborated with DZYNE to build and test ROBOpilot, demonstrating the prototype using a RedBird FMX flight simulator.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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