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Sun, Mar 06, 2022

General Atomics 'Wingman' Recon Drone Announced

AI-Powered Smart Scout To Serve as High-Speed Fighter Companion

General Atomics has announced its newest addition to its portfolio drones, the Gambit. 

Described as an "Autonomous Collaborative Platform (ACP)”,  the drone will be a jet-powered, autonomous recon wingman for manned aircraft, working in tandem as a lower cost, low-risk option to send on scouting tasks that would be too dangerous for larger aircraft. Using a blend of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, the Gambit will "enable pilots to see deeper into hostile airspace, detect threats first, and provide time and space for critical decisions and actions." All indications of the Gambit in its base trim point towards an unarmed reconnaissance drone, with no stated provision for future armament. While the announcement may seem to have come out of nowhere to those familiar with the other aircraft built by the firm, without the usual forewarning that prefaces the release of new designs. They say the aircraft was designed digitally in order to sprint the design to market and lower the cost of development, cutting out many of the painful parts of the gestation process. Whether it will result in gremlins later on, however, remains to be seen. 

General Atomics described the name as an allusion to initiative, to "leading from the front" and grabbing "the tactical advantage to open a world of possibilities." It's unknown if the name has anything to do with a previously announced Sukhoi product in a very similar vein, the Checkmate. The Gambit appears to be smaller, and lighter than its Russian analogue, at least, as it was built from the outset to be a lightweight UAV with no piloted version. The idea of a cheap, robotic companion for fighter pilots has long been a staple of futuristic air forces in theory, and with technology rapidly gaining on the software end of the problem, they're just around the corner. The Gambit will use a combination of "AI and autonomy to complete a variety of tasks without being prompted by an operator", as well as "be able to sense and track targets of interest, and distribute that information across the battlespace." 

“We’re designing systems to meet future requirements, to include working collaboratively and autonomously,” said General Atomics president David Alexander. “Gambit is part of a broader Family of Systems strategy that began with Predator and Reaper, and continues in support of USAF’s future force design concepts.”



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