Lockheed with Iowa's Operator Performance Laboratory completed an artificial intelligence demonstration using two piloted L-29 aircraft in a simulated air-to-ground mission
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The University of Iowa's Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), working with Lockheed Martin Corporation, completed an artificial intelligence (AI) demonstration using two piloted L-29 aircraft (acting as surrogates for uncrewed systems) performing jamming support in a simulated air-to-ground mission. The successful execution of the electronic attack task by AI agents shows how autonomous uncrewed aerial systems can operate in coordination with crewed tactical platforms in future combat operations, creating a powerful, unified team to address complex threats, according to a news release from Lockheed.

Tom Mach Schnell portrait

This project, named Enhanced Collaborative High-Frequency Orientation System (ECHOS), was sponsored by Lockheed Martin's 21st Century Security Demonstrations & Prototypes (D&P) organization. "ECHOS is a terrific example of using artificial intelligence and UAS to further enable the DOD vision of Joint All Domain Operations (JADO), providing new capabilities to identify targets and deliver effects," said Joe Villani, Lockheed Martin D&P vice president.

The L-29s were flown by experienced OPL pilots, following instructions from the AI agents in the form of heading, altitude, and speed cues. Demonstrating how AI can provide data for rapid decision making and increased mission effectiveness by reducing pilot workload. The pilots maintained the option to stop following AI cues if at any point they felt unsafe, or the agent tried to go outside acceptable operating conditions.

"This was an awesome experience, and the event went smoothly. It was an exceptional example of industry and academia working together on a cutting-edge project. We're excited to take this to the next level," said Tom "Mach" Schnell, OPL founder and director.

OPL, which is an affiliate lab of the Iowa Technology Institute, a research arm of the College of Engineering, is one of the nation's most in demand and trusted flight testing laboratories for its ability to test early and often in technology development, innovate solutions, and help partners save on R&D costs. 

The effort with Lockheed has gained attention from industry publications including. 

AeroFlap: Lockheed and University of Iowa successfully demonstrate AI-driven mission

Brands Review Magazine: Lockheed Martin and University of Iowa execute AI-guided electronic attack simulation

TS2 Space: Lockheed Martin and University of Iowa Demonstrate AI-Enabled Coordination Between Crewed and Uncrewed Aircraft