[Avionics Today May 1, 2014] Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is preparing for its next round of sea trials with the X-47B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) this summer, as the U.S. Navy looks to further develop its integration of unmanned aircraft into the maritime environment.
X-47B's first night flight over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Photo, courtesy of U.S. Navy.
Developed by Northrop Grumman as a demonstrator for the Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, the X-47B is expected to enter active naval service by 2019. A restricted draft request for proposals for the carrier-based UAS was issued in April to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman.
Over the summer, NAVAIR's X-47B test team plans to perform a series of test to mature Air Traffic Control (ATC) and ground support standard operating procedures for "co-use of airspace" between unmanned and manned aircraft. The Navy recently completed the first ever night flight of the X-47B demonstrator over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
“We are working toward a new set of firsts for the X-47B,” said Matt Funk, X-47B lead test engineer. “We’ll test the new capabilities of the X-47B wing-fold and tailhook retract system, and will demonstrate compatibility with a carrier jet-blast deflector on the flight deck for the first time.”
According to Beau Duarte, NAVAIR's program manager for unmanned carrier aviation, this summer will also be the first time the X-47B operates together with a manned aircraft, with a goal of clearing the carrier flight deck within 90 seconds after landing.