X-47B Wins Collier

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The first autonomous combat drone for carrier operations is the winner of the 2013 Collier Trophy. The National Aeronautic Association bestowed what many consider aviation's top prize to the Northrop Grumman X-47B. The stealthy drone first flew in 2011 and spent much of 2013 in carrier and runway recovery operations. Last week it made its first night flight. It will become the ancestor of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS), which is scheduled to be deployed by the Navy in 2019. NAA Chairman Walter Boyne called the X-47B a "remarkable accomplishment" and said it was up against some worthy opponents. 

Among the other nominees were such high-tech endeavors as the NASA Lunar Laser Communications demo team and practical applications like Pratt & Whitney's PurePower geared turbofan engine, which promises substantial fuel savings. Also on the docket were the Atlas and Gamera teams, which have achieved controlled sustained flight in human-powered helicopters. The Collier will be awarded at a dinner May 29 in Arlington, Va.