When we think of drones, or UAS, we usually think of small unmanned aircraft used by the military for remote missions, or commercial deployments that are being developed for a myriad of useful applications. But this is a really interesting application of an “unmanned aircraft”. Taking an F-16 and retrofitting it to fly unmanned allows the for some interested testing of air-. to-missile and sensor technology testing and development.
Check out this cool article and video from Engaget:
Existing drone aircraft are useful for many things, but they make for lousy target practice when you’re testing missiles; they’re rarely as maneuverable as modern fighter jets. Boeing and one of its customers have just shown that there’s a better way, however, by firing a surface-to-air missile at a remote-controlled QF-16.
As you’ll see in the video below, the unmanned aircraft is much nimbler than either a purpose-built vehicle or an aging conversion like the QF-4, and gives weapons a real workout. It even managed to dodge the projectile, although you can’t really say that the shooters missed. The missile was tuned to avoid hitting its target — sensors on both the missile and QF-16 confirmed that the weapon was on track without having to blow up expensive equipment. It’ll be a while longer before the airplane is regularly serving as an aerial punching bag, but this test proves that it’s up to the job.