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The first demonstration flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) took place on Friday, January 4, 2011. While the program has been in place for years, this flight represents an important step in the Navy’s ground-breaking effort to deploy autonomous unmanned air systems on an aircraft carrier.
Northrop Grumman even produced a music video of the flight:
Resembling a B-2 stealth bomber, the bat-winged X-47B robotic jet took off from Edwards Air Force Base for a 29-minute flight that reached 5,000 feet. The event represents a turning point in naval aviation as the X-47B is the first unmanned aircraft designed to operate from an aircraft carrier deck without a pilot.
In the early days of the X-47B development cycle the Discovery Channel put together this video for their FutureWeapons series. While they didn't provide a close-up, around the 2:02 minute mark there's a shot of the Hardware Integration Control Station, and yes, there are Trenton rackmount computers inside.
“Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy’s first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies,” remarked Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Program Manager for the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration, after observing the X-47B maiden flight.
The Navy awarded the UCAS-D prime contract to Northrop Grumman in August 2007. Fifty more test flights are scheduled and a 2nd X47B, designed for autonomous aerial refueling, is already in the works. Carrier trials are expected to begin in 2013.
Trenton integrated computer systems have been utilized to address the needs of many mission critical government and defense applications, including the ground station control of unmanned aerial vehicles. Call us with your unique system requirments - 770-287-3100.