Nov. 28, 2011 at 1:37 PM ET
Two is better than one, especially when it comes to flight testing a stealth drone designed to take off and land from moving aircraft carriers at sea. The U.S. Navy announced today it has reached that milestone in its X-47B program.
The second tail-less unmanned aircraft — named Air Vehicle 2 — took to the skies from Edwards Air Force Base in California on Nov. 22 and flew a few racetrack patterns over Rogers Dry Lake at an altitude of 5,000 feet, said Northup Grumman, who is building the plane, in a news release.irst flightimages that make the plane look like a UFO
Having a second plane will allow for the collection of more performance data and keep the program on development schedule, the aerospace company said.
The computer-controlled unmanned aircraft takes off and flies a pre-programmed mission and then returns to base in response to mouse clicks from a mission operator. The operator monitors the flight, but doesn't actively control it remotely, as for other drones.
One of the twin aircraft will transition to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., by the end of 2011, to begin testing of precision carrier approaches, arresting landings and "roll-out" catapult landings, according to the release.
The tests will also include testing of recently installed guidance, navigation and control software that will enable the aircraft to land on a moving carrier deck, considered among the harshest aviation environments.
The second craft will remain in California to continue envelop expansion flights, which are used to demonstrate the aircraft performance under a range of range, speed, and fuel-load conditions.
The first carrier launches are planned for 2013 and autonomous refueling demonstrations are slated for 2014.
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