x-47

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER: Landing a jet plane on an aircraft carrier is one of the hardest and most dangerous things a human being can do, with pilots’ stress levels spiking higher than in combat. Now the Navy is trying to teach a robot how to do it: The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System, the UCAS.

“You have to think of every single contingency and work it into the software,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s UCAS program manager, at an event yesterday to roll out the X-47B for the press. The two UCAS aircraft, built by Northrop Grumman, have already gone through extensive testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, but that was just landing and taking off from a conventional airstrip. Now both robot planes have moved out east to Patuxent River to work on “the basics of operating around the aircraft carrier,” Engdahl said. Keep reading →