Military Embedded Systems

X-47B UAS completes first arrested landing aboard aircraft carrier


July 11, 2013

Brandon Lewis

Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

NORFOLK, VA. The U.S. Navy successfully conducted an arrested landing of an X-47B Unmanned Aerial System UAS aboard the U.S.S. H.W. Bush on Wednesday. The X-47B UAS departed from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland before landing on the U.S.S. H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia.

Using a tailhook that caught a wire on the ship’s deck, the X-47B made an arrested landing identical to those of manned fighter jets. The only previous arrested landing of a UAS was performed on land at Patuxent River.

The X-47B is an experimental drone that will aid Navy officials in developing future carrier-based drones. Though the UAS will never be put in operational use, its descendants could be equipped alongside traditional aircraft to provide 24-hour surveillance and eliminate the need to use foreign air bases. A contract to design and build such drones will be awarded in FY 2014.

The X-47B has a 62-foot wingspan, enabling altitudes of 40,000 feet and ranges of up to 2,100 miles. The UAS flight is completely autonomous, relying solely on computer programs such as GPS navigation, advanced flight control software, and a high-integrity network connection for flight guidance.

"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 Captain Jaime Engdahl, Program Manager, Navy Unmanned Combat Air Systems.


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