Behind the Navy’s Carrier-Launched Killer Drone

X-47B. <em>Photo: Navy</em>

X-47B. Photo: Navy


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. 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!

More information

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

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

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

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