PopSci’s favorite autonomous warplane is having a big week at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The first of the two aircraft has been reassembled, run through a battery of tests, and is officially back in the air, this time on the East Coast.
On Sunday the X-47B made a 36-minute flight, looping over the Chesapeake Bay at altitudes up to 7,500 feet--appropriately with the Navy’s carrier-capable workhorse, an F/A-18 jet, giving chase. The X-47B is the Navy’s (and the world’s) first attempt at creating an unmanned jet aircraft that can take off and land on a carrier deck--if successful, it will also be the first tailless aircraft to do so. Pax River held a media event yesterday to celebrate the first flight, which brings us one big step closer to the advent of the first unmanned, autonomous, aircraft carrier-capable strike aircraft.