These robots grow up so fast. It was just two years ago that personnel at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. escorted PopMech through the lab, describing how they were making the X-47B jet fighter-sized drone ready to take off and land from a carrier. Today, the unmanned naval demonstration aircraft launched from the deck of George H.W. Bush, zipped around the carrier a few times, and flew itself back to Pax River.
Taking off from the carrier is a milestone, but it requires only that the X-47B can handle the steam catapult launch, the same gear used by conventional Navy warplanes. Navy researchers were more interested to see how the unmanned aircraft behaved near the carrier, a complicated place for air traffic control that's full of different radio frequency emissions. The Navy says the testers "demonstrated the ability to precisely navigate the X-47B within the controlled airspace around an aircraft carrier at sea and seamlessly pass control of the air vehicle from a 'mission operator' aboard the carrier" to one located in at NAS Patuxent River.
Over the next few weeks, the X-47B aircraft will fly several approaches to the ship. This will lead up to the big show—landing this thing a pitching flight deck. (The X-47B set down on land following this test.)
Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult feats of aviation, requiring a clever mesh of man and machine. The Navy is building the X-47B's landing capability on technology pilots use today, the Precision Approach Landing System (PALS), but going beyond what it uses to help human aviators land on the deck. PALS uses SPN-46 radar to locate an aircraft in relation to a carrier. However the PALS radar covers only the rear of the carrier and is limited by the number of aircraft it can track simultaneously. These deficiencies make it unsuitable for controlling UAVs that are approaching to land.
quote:Trust me, I know.
Um, no it really is.
They've contemplated making passenger planes "pilot-less" and are fully capable of doing so, but it will never happen because people would be way too nervous for that.
Robots will soon rule the world.