X-47B Drone Completes First Arrested Landing At Sea


The Navy this week said its X-47B drone successfully landed on an aircraft carrier at sea, using the arrested landing system to control its rollout on the deck. The drone had launched from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, and flew to the carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which was sailing off the coast of Virginia. After the first landing, the drone then launched from the deck and came back around for a second successful landing. The drone used “precision GPS navigation, a high-integrity network connection and advanced flight control software to guide itself through the turbulent air behind the aircraft carrier and onto the moving flight deck,” wrote Capt. Jaime Engdahl, program manager for the drone, at the Navy Live blog.

The Navy’s two X-47B aircraft are now certified to conduct carrier flight operations, Engdahl wrote, including catapults, arrested landings, flight-deck taxi operations, maintenance and refueling. “It has taken several years of software development, thousands of simulated landings in high-fidelity labs and many hours of flight test in the Patuxent River landing pattern to prove this aircraft is up for the challenge,” says Engdahl. “The revolutionary technologies that we have developed and proven in the harsh carrier environment, including aerodynamics of a tailless aircraft, autonomous aircraft behavior, precision GPS navigation, and digitization of the aircraft carrier air traffic control procedures will truly impact the way we integrate manned and unmanned aircraft on carrier flight decks in the future.” The X-47B itself is not intended for operational use. The program demonstrated the ability to seamlessly integrate unmanned systems into the carrier environment with only small changes to existing equipment and operations, says Engdahl.