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X-47B STEALTH UN-MANNED COMBAT DRONE - VIEW FROM ABOVE

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) developed by the American defense technology company Northrop Grumman. The X-47 project began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) program, which aims to create a carrier-based unmanned aircraft. It is intended that the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System (UCLASS) will enter service in 2019. The X-47B first flew in 2011, and as of 2013, it is undergoing flight testing, having successfully completed a series of land- and carrier-based demonstrations.

The X-47B drone is the perfect example of where drone design is heading. It has no tail and looks more like a flying saucer than a plane when its landing gear is up. Don’t let the radical shape fool you though, the military has big plans for this drone.

Designed by Northrop Grunman, the X-47B is expected to be introduced into service by 2013. Its two advantages over existing drones include its ability to take off and land on an aircraft carrier and aerial refueling.

The carrier take off and landing is impressive, but the aerial refueling more so. What it means is the X-47B could remain in the air indefinitely being refueled either by another drone or manned aircraft. Whatever the case, load this new drone up with sensors and you have a 24 hour monitoring drone that doesn’t suffer fatigue and is very hard for the enemy to spot.

The X-47B completed its first flight back in February with its landing gear still down and a prediction of seeing it in use within a decade. Several months later we know it will be ready in just two years. The drone has also recently completed aerodynamic cruise performance tests with the landing gear up, and tested on-board navigation and control for carrier landings. That leaves aerial refueling and weapons/sensor tests to go before Skynet the drone comes online.

Here’s the test flight performed back in February. Although unmanned, the drone is by no means small and has a wingspan of 60 feet. Because of that, it can carry a payload of up to 4,500lbs.
 

X-47B STEALTH UN-MANNED COMBAT DRONE - VIEW FROM ABOVE






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