Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy said Thursday they completed its first shore-based trials of a new wireless, handheld device called a Control Display Unit (CDU) on the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator. Northrop Grumman said the tests are a "critical step" toward demonstrating that the UAS can be maneuvered safely and wirelessly on the crowded deck of an aircraft carrier.
The CDU, which was developed by Northrop Grumman, will allow deck operators to maneuver the X-47B by remote control on the carrier deck. The team demonstrated the CDU's ability to control the X-47B's engine thrust; to roll the aircraft forward, brake and stop; to use its nose wheel steering to execute tight, precision turns; and to maneuver the aircraft efficiently into a catapult or out of the landing area following a mock carrier landing.
"The CDU is fundamental to integrating the X-47B seamlessly into carrier deck operations," said Daryl Martis, Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D test director. "It will allow us to move the aircraft quickly and precisely into the catapult for launch, or out of the landing area following recovery. Both of these activities are essential to maintaining the rhythm of the flight deck."
In practice, a deck operator will work in tandem with the flight deck director to move the X-47B via the CDU to a designated flight deck location. Standing in front of the aircraft, the director will use traditional hand signals to indicate how, when and where the aircraft should move, the same way he would communicate with a pilot in a manned aircraft. The deck operator will stand behind the director and use the CDU to duplicate the director's instructions as digital commands to the aircraft.
Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes GKN Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.