U.S. Navy Launches First Unmanned X-47B Aircraft from Carrier Flight Deck
May 15, 2013 12:13 PM
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While X-47B is for non-operational use, its precision navigation algorithms will be used to create the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft
The United States Navy launched an unmanned aircraft from a modern carrier flight deck for the first time ever Tuesday.
The unmanned aircraft was the
X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator
, and its first-ever launch from a modern aircraft carrier represents how manned and unmanned aircraft on carrier flight decks will be merged in the future.
A mission operator aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) controlled X-47B, showing off how well it works within a carrier environment. It landed back at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.
"This historic event challenges the paradigm of manned carrier landings that were first conducted more than 90 years ago," said Rear Adm. Mat Winter. "In that challenge though, comes a respect and admiration for all those naval aviators – past and present – that have ensured the value of the Navy aircraft carrier/carrier air wing team.
"The addition of unmanned aviation to this formidable, power projection team provides a complementary capability, which will ensure carrier naval aviation remains viable and relevant for decades to come. It also shows our collective readiness within naval aviation to embrace these future opportunities to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation.
"This is a big deal!"
While X-47B is for non-operational use, its precision navigation algorithms will be used to create the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft.
That future aircraft is expected to feature "24/7 carrier-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting capability" which will operate with manned aviation assets.
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RE: Try landing then we'll be excited.
5/15/2013 3:40:50 PM
They've been experimenting with automated carrier landings for much longer.
An anecdote I was told in the 1990s by someone who worked for a defense contractor (no idea if he actually worked on ACLS or if this was just an urban legend he was retelling) was that in the earliest versions they had the computer calculate the optimal flight path.
Have you ever watched how birds land on a branch? They fly towards a point beneath the branch, then at the last moment they redirect their flight upwards, this converts their forward momentum into upward momentum, and gravity reduces their upward momentum as they pop up, allowing them to easily alight on the branch with minimal stress to the feet and legs.
Well, apparently the computer decided this was the optimal flight path for a minimum velocity carrier landing. So the initial test pilots had some white knuckle moments when it looked like the autopilot was flying them straight into the carrier's fantail.
RE: Try landing then we'll be excited.
5/15/2013 3:50:58 PM
I know... but it was a recent example which even a cerebrally-challenged naval admiral should have been aware of. ;-)
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