Military contractor Boeing announced Wednesday that it is developing an autonomous fighter jet plane that it plans to sell to customers around the world.
The company plans to fly the pilot-free plane, dubbed the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, sometime in 2020. While the company says it can design the plane according to a given customers needs, the autonomous jet may be particularly well-suited for long-distance surveillance missions that a human pilot may not be able to perform, according to Reuters.
Though Boeing declined to share its new plane’s top speed with Reuters, an autonomous vehicle would feasibly be able to travel faster and farther than a human pilot’s physiology would allow, opening the door to new types of missions.
“To bring that extra component and the advantage of unmanned capability, you can accept a higher level of risk,” Shane Arnott, director of Boeing research, told Reuters.
Though Boeing has close ties with the U.S. military, the company reportedly plans to sell its autonomous jet to customers world-wide. The U.S. Air Force has already discussed plans to complement crewed jets with autonomous systems, Reuters reports, but other countries would be able to use the Boeing Airpower Teaming System in other ways as well.
“We didn’t design this as a point solution but a very flexible solution that we could outfit with payloads, sensors, different mission sets to complement whatever their fleet is,” Kristin Robertson, VP of Boeing Autonomous Systems, told Reuters. “Don’t think of it as a specific product that is tailored to do only one mission.”
READ MORE: Boeing unveils unmanned combat jet developed in Australia [Reuters]
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