UAV Landing on an Air Craft Carrier

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To a Navy pilot, one maneuver stands out as the most pulse racing and difficult; the aircraft carrier landing. The landing area is not only moving, it’s so small that they need a cable to stop the plane.

To perfect this skill Navy pilots undergo extensive training.  Even so, each landing is a hair-raising moment.

So, you can image how concerned the Navy is when it comes to landing an autonomous craft on the deck of one of its carriers. Even the smallest miscalculation could result in damage to the carrier, injury to the ship’s crew and, of course, the cratering of an expensive piece of hardware.

To avoid any of these outcomes the Navy decided to begin a recent UAV landing test on the safer confines of terra-firma.   And it was successful.  At the Naval Air Station in Patuxent 

During the test the X-47B successfully performed a cable assist landing on a conventional runway.Maryland, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B recently completed its first simulated aircraft carrier landings.

According to Carl Johnson of Northrop Grumman “”The X-47B air vehicle performs exactly as predicted by the modeling, simulation and surrogate testing we did early in the UCAS-D program”. Johnson added, “It takes off, flies and lands within a few feet of its predicted path.”

The successful test of the X-47B’s capabilities are the culmination of over 3 months work focused on “shore-based carrier suitability”. In the coming months the Navy will begin testing the X-47B in live carrier landing test with aerial refueling exercises expected to follow sometime during 2014.

Watch a Video of the X-47B’s Cable Assist Landing:

Images and Video Courtesy of Northrup Grumman