Now, the Predator Four-Ship: The Air Force now has tested whether a single pilot can simultaneously control four Predator unmanned aerial vehicles in flight. The answer: Yes, he (or she) can do it. The technology needed to perform this UAV quad patrol is called the multi-aircraft control—or MAC—system. Taking baby steps first, testers at Edwards AFB, Calif., flew two MQ-1 Predators at once, then graduated to the four-ship test. As one pilot flies the four UAVs, he can actively engage a target with one and keep the other three orbiting the area. Each Predator has a human sensor operator, and each UAV collects intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance data. The MAC system offers a “quantum leap” in UAV technology, said Col. William Coutts, commander of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin AFB, Fla. Testers with the 53rd and the 57th Wing at Edwards plan to complete operational testing of the system by December.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.