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A Video History of the X-47B UCAS-D Naval Unmanned Aircraft System

One of my biggest obsessions recently has been UAV’s, and the X-47B in particular.  As incredible as I find UAVs it is even more incredible to me that the Navy has pursued an aircraft like this.  Naval aviation just carries so many unique attributes that I never thought they would even be interested in this technology.

After two and a half years of development the Navy recently achieved arguably the biggest milestone in making the UCAS-D a reality.  On July 10 they successfully performed an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier with the X-47B on board the USS George H.W. Bush.  When I saw the video, which can be found below, the only thought I had was, WOW!

Maybe it is just the nature of aviation, but it seems like they continue to make advances where other industries crawl along at a snail’s pace.  This is the type of technology that really sparks innovation in the world.  Like many technologies we may not fully appreciate its impact until far into the future, but there is no doubt it will have a tremendous impact.

The Navy has a great timeline of events on their website describing the development process, and Northrop Grumman, the lead developer, gave a nice description of the first arrested landing in their press release.  More information about previous milestones can be found here, here, and here.

But, if all you want is some high quality video footage, that can be found below.

July 24, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

X-47B UCAS-D Performs First Arrested Landing

There are a few things that I have become completely obsessed with recently in aviation.  One of the biggest ones is the development of UAVs.  There are so many amazing new technologies and new applications that we haven’t even considered yet.  How about using them on aircraft carriers?

It is hard enough for a pilot in the seat to land on a carrier, so how good will a computer do?  Only time will tell, but the Navy is getting one step closer.

Northrop Grumman has been working with the Navy on developing the X-47B, an Unmanned Carrier Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D).  The first flight took place a little over two years ago on land, and then over this last weekend it performed its first arrested landing, also on land.  According to this is leading up to carrier flight tests that are scheduled to start later this month on the USS George H. W. Bush. has a great collection of videos of the X-47B that follow its development from the beginning.

It will be interesting to continue to follow the development of this and other carrier-borne systems.

May 6, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Simulate Aerial Refueling For Carrier-Borne Platforms

Being a flyer myself, I am not too interested in being replaced by machines.  I think it is very cool the things that they can do with remotely piloted aircraft, or whatever they are calling them these days, but for now I see them as much as an air hazard as anything.  Talk to me after I retire and I may change my song.

That being said, I still find the whole field very interesting, and Northrop Grumman and the US Navy are working to take UASs to the next level.  They are working towards autonomous aerial refueling for these up and coming aircraft.

Aerial refueling is an essential aspect of the effectiveness of most aircraft in the military arsenal, so for UASs to reach the next level of usability they are going to need that ability.  These early simulations are the first steps in making that a reality for the developmental X-47B.

While the simulations did not involve any real transfer of fuel, they are hopeful to achieve actual refueling by 2014.  Leading up to that milestone is successfully demonstrating the X-47B’s ability to safely operate from an aircraft carrier including launch and recovery.

I am not naive enough to think that these platforms will go away.  I believe that quite the opposite will happen, and I’m okay with it.  There are plenty of missions out there that can be effectively accomplished by airframes with no people on-board.

But, there are also plenty of missions that need to be taken care of by pilots who are physically in the cockpit.  Computers and technology can do amazing things, but no matter how hard they try they will never replicate the abilities of the human mind.

January 27, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.