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Artist rendering of the X-47B in combat  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northtrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy will fly the X-47B in late 2009

The U.S. military is furthering its funding of unmanned vehicles for combat. Just last week, DailyTech reported on the U.S. Army's new SWORDS unmanned robots which roam the Iraqi battlefield carrying M249 machines guns -- and in turn put human soldiers out of harm's way. The military's latest unmanned project leaves the desert behind in order to take to the skies.

The U.S. Navy on Friday awarded Northrop Grumman a six-year, $635.8 million USD contract to further develop the X-47B fixed-wing unmanned air system (UAS). The funding for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program will allow Northrop Grumman to conduct take-offs and landings from the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

"We are proud of our legacy of innovation and creativity in developing new combat capabilities and are pleased to be selected to lead this revolutionary advancement in unmanned systems capabilities," said Northrop Grumman's Scott Seymour.

"The UCAS-D award is the culmination of several years of effort with the Navy to show the benefit of melding the capabilities of a survivable, persistent, long-range UCAS with those of the aircraft carrier," continued Northrop Grumman's Gary Ervin. "The UCAS-D program will reduce the risk of eventual integration of unmanned air systems into carrier environments."

Northrop Grumman will build two X47-B aircraft for the U.S. Navy -- the first of which will take flight during the closing months of 2009. The company expects to begin the first carrier landings in 2011.

The X-47B, a sister-ship to the X-47A, has a cruising altitude of 40,000+ feet and a combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles. The stealthy vehicle can carry an internal payload of 4,500 pounds and can travel at high subsonic speeds.

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RE: And then SkyNet
By Scorpion on 8/6/2007 4:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
Boy you sure got it figured out. Too bad you haven't a clue what you're talking about. Do you know how to program such AI? Simple AI? Ever heard of a little thing called "Bayes Theorem", "Artificial Neural Networks", "Bayes Decision rule"? These are all very simple probabilistic tools which often used on only the simplest events, but first you have to build models for them. I haven't even scraped the surface on information theoretic research, but it is far more complex then you seem think it is. These models occur billions of times in parallel all the time in our brains. To model something like that would take such tremendous resources and time, and that's only after we understand the models better than we already do. See also "Turing Machine".

I see too many people here too swayed by science fiction rather than science fact. Do you have any proof to your claim of "infant like" AI capabilities? Do you understand the cognitive abilities of infants? Do you know that infants are not capable of understanding that when something disappears from view that it has not disappeared from existence? That you can repeatedly show them something and take it away and they will still cry every time it is hidden. And that's only a small example. That is so very very far from the cognitive abilities of a full grown adult.

RE: And then SkyNet
By Ringold on 8/6/2007 5:26:55 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know about any of this myself, but I can draw some conclusion from whats known:

1) Super-computers are working their way towards the raw processing power of the human brain

2) Super-computers are also working on increasingly vast amounts of RAM

3) Moores Law

4) The spurt of quantum computing news over the last year

All that together means to me that, sooner or later, it'll be possible. We don't need robots pondering how many angels can fit on the tip of pin; just "Is that a target?" and "Should I fire at it."

Now, if programmers can't keep up with the raw power, as you (and game developers) hint at, then that's one thing.

RE: And then SkyNet
By FITCamaro on 8/6/2007 6:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I realize it is far more complex than I am stating.

And you said it yourself. It requires building a model. Then it has to "occur" or be run on a computer. Eventually the models will be made and perfected and the computers will be fast enough to handle them in real time much like the brain.

It's all just a matter of time and people far more intelligent than I am to figure it all out.

You're focusing on the present. I'm looking to the future. I don't doubt the capabilities of mankind one bit. Mankind has shown over and over than where theres a will theres a way. Its just a matter of expending the effort to do it. And scientists and researchers are.

100 years ago if you told someone that you could talk to someone via a video conference in real time they'd put you in an asylum. Who's to say what'll happen in the next 100 years. Technology has exploded in the past 40 years. Give it another 40 and see where we are.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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