GE Aviation and AAI Perform First Trajectory-Based Flight on Unmanned Aircraft System
AAI’s Shadow UAS used in “proof of concept” for unmanned flight in national airspace.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Dec 19, 2009

Using a GE commercial certified flight management system, AAI’s Shadow unmanned aircraft performs first demonstration flight of UAS operating in the US national airspace.

GE Aviation and AAI Corporation, in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Army performed the first “proof of concept” flight demonstrations of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) controlled with a GE Flight Management System (FMS) certified for use in commercial manned aircraft. These flights used the AAI Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System controlled by the GE Aviation FMS as part of the UAS FAA & Industry Team (UFIT) Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) to demonstrate an approach for the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) as part of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System Program.

“The Shadow and the U.S. Army will benefit by using a derivative of this commercial-certified flight management system to provide precise, time-based navigation capability,” said Dr. Gerry Vossler, vice president of Strategic Initiatives for GE Aviation Systems. “Continued development of this technology approach offers a path to 4DT UAS operations in NextGen.”

The first flight took off at 2:50 p.m. CST on Thursday, December 3rd at the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal Airfield This initial flight lasted 45 minutes and demonstrated both lateral and vertical control of the Shadow 200 UAS coupled with the GE FMS. On Friday, December 4th, a 3 hour demonstration was conducted that allowed for more rigorous testing of the FMS controlled Shadow 200. The results provide a variety of operational and technical assessments to demonstrate the ability to integrate a certified flight management capability into existing U.S. military UAS to support operations in national airspace.

This demonstration is in support of the UAS FAA & Industry Team (UFIT) Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) between GE and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on August 10, 2009. The research agreement is complemented by an agreement between AAI, an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. company, and GE including the demonstration flights of the AAI Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System. Simulation is being conducted at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, which began this fall and will continue for two years.

Integration of the FMS with the One System Ground Control Station (GCS) will enable the Army to fold this capability into all UAS that incorporate the One System.

GE certified their first flight management computer in November 1984. GE provides versions of its flight management systems for the Airbus A320/330/340, Boeing 767 Tanker, and U.S. Navy E-6 aircraft, the USAF E-4 and C-130, UK C-130, Spanish Air Force C-130s, C-130 AMP, UK Nimrod 2000, IL-96. GE’s FMS software will also be on the U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft which is currently in development.

The FMS optimized descent has qualified as an ecomagination product, having completed GE’s rigorous ecomagination Product Review (EPR) process. The evaluation focused on the operating and environmental benefits that the technology provides to customers, including demonstrated emissions reductions, fuel and costs savings.

GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and integrated systems for military and commercial aircraft. GE Aviation also has a global service network to support these offerings. For more information, visit us at

GE Aviation
Jennifer Villarreal
P:  616 241 8643

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