Behind the Navy’s Carrier-Launched Killer Drone

by David Axe.

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David R. Finley Jr./ Released).

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David R. Finley Jr./ Released).

Sometime today the U.S. Navy will launch a modern, jet-powered, armed drone from the first time from an aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush. The X-47B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, built by Northrop Grumman, is a possible precursor to a new class of naval drones that could transform American sea and air power.

Below, a primer on the robot, its origins and the implications of its first at-sea takeoff.

Danger Room: The Secret History of Boeing’s Killer Drone

The X-47B has its origins in a competitive, Air Force-Navy-sponsored fly-off between an older version of the Northrop drone and Boeing’s X-45. The Boeing model featured profound new robotic capabilities but faltered when the Air Force pulled out of the competition.

Offiziere.ch: Air Power’s Robotic Future: An Interview with Northrop Grumman’s Carl Johnson

The X-47 survived the now-defunct, bi-service fly-off against the X-45 — but as a strictly Navy program aimed at demonstrating carrier-drone compatibility. Northrop poured new technologies into the enlarged X-47B version, including high degrees of autonomy and some ability to evade enemy radars.

Breaking Defense: Navy, MIT Grapple With Managing Drones On Dangerous Decks

One of the biggest challenges was mixing the X-47B with manned planes and helicopters on a crowded carrier deck. MIT professor Missy Cummings developed a new control system that allows the drone to seamlessly navigate the deck.

Danger Room: One of These ‘Bots Will Be the Navy’s Next Killer Drone

As the X-47B neared its critical first carrier launch in May 2013, three other companies unveiled new drone prototypes meant to compete for the expected, multibillion-dollar, follow-on production program — including an enlarged version of the Boeing X-45!

The Future is now!

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This entry was posted in David Axe, Drones, English, Technology, X-Planes.

1 Response to Behind the Navy’s Carrier-Launched Killer Drone

  1. Pingback: Navy Drone Touches Down On Carrier Deck for First Time | Offiziere.ch

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