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X-47B in Flight  (Source: Northrop)

X-47 from Below  (Source: Northrop)
The flight is part of expanded envelope for the program

The military is using robots for bomb discovery/disposal and for carrying equipment for forces in the field. The military is also moving to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to help patrol skies and keep human soldiers safe from unnecessary risks.
 
The last new UAV we talked about for the Navy was back in December of 2010 when the X-47B demonstrator first appeared. That unmanned X-47B demonstrator has hit a new milestone that is very important. The demonstrator has made its first flight with its landing gear retracted in cruise configuration.
 
During the flight, which took place from Edwards Air Force Base, the precision navigation hardware and software was validated. This is the software and hardware that will allow the fighter to land on the deck of a moving ship.

"Last week's flight gave us our first clean look at the aerodynamic cruise performance of the X-47B air system…and it is proving out all of our predictions," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "Reaching this critical test point demonstrates the growing maturity of the air system, and its readiness to move to the next phase of flight testing."

The flight was part of the expanded envelop of the first two X-47B aircraft that were built by Northrop Grumman for the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program. The X-47B is set to start carrier testing in 2012.
 
The design of the X-47B allows for attack missions with low observability, and the aircraft uses no tail, looking like a combination of the F-117 Nighthawk and the B-2 Spirit.

Source: Northrop Grumman



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RE: Dog fights?
By Flunk on 10/11/2011 3:30:18 PM , Rating: 2
That is completely untrue, writing software of the complexity required to outperform human pilots in a live-fire situation is extremely complicated. This is not like writing an AI simulation of flying an aircraft. This software would have to be able to pilot, identify, aim and operate weapon systems with close to a 100% margin of error.

That sort of high-accuracy system is absurdly more difficult to design than the current ones that use operators to control the weapons. This thing would have to react quickly and accurately in every conceivable situation. The design process would need multiple fail-safes, redundant testing and a lot of accountability. It's a big task. Testing alone would take years.

I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination.


RE: Dog fights?
By Flunk on 10/11/2011 3:31:05 PM , Rating: 2
That should be almost 0% margin of error, for some reason my mind flipped the terms around.


RE: Dog fights?
By Amiga500 on 10/11/2011 4:18:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
pilot, identify, aim and operate weapon systems


The computers already do all of those things.

It just presents them to the pilot for final decisions.

So yeah, decision making algorithms would be needed - however, a combat pilot thinks along a surprisingly single-track train of thought. Identify your relative advantages over the other guy and exploit them to the max - those advantages may be situational, they may be airframe performance or they may be weapon performance.

A computer would actually be able to perform this task much better than a human as well. Parallel consideration of multiple options and picking the best one.

If a human had to play a computer at chess, and the time to make each move was fixed at 0.5 seconds.... guess who'd win?


RE: Dog fights?
By DougF on 10/11/2011 4:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If a human had to play a computer at chess, and the time to make each move was fixed at 0.5 seconds.... guess who'd win?

Me. I'd move the pieces for the computer and somehow, they'd benefit my position... :-)


RE: Dog fights?
By Elk on 10/11/2011 5:06:45 PM , Rating: 2
Think game AI. And I'm not talking chess which has a finite, very small set of rules and is a very bad example regarding dogfights.

If you can think of just one way to beat the AI then it's going to be exploited to no end.

The same is true here. If there is just one way to shoot down a drone it's going to happen all the time.

A fighter AI can't be 99% or even 99.9% correct. It needs to be 100% and that is almost impossible.


RE: Dog fights?
By mindless1 on 10/12/2011 1:21:25 AM , Rating: 2
Not applicable. In Chess, the game is static and simple enough that humans can program in everything - the computer is only following instructions of course.

In combat roles, by the time you could program the whole thing, your plane is different, the enemy is different, the program is outdated.

The human is still the weaker link but since the computer depends on the human code to function in the first place it's going to have bugs, flaws, and incompleteness.


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