|The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman
[Avionics Today 04-23-2015] Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft has successfully demonstrated fully Autonomous Aerial Refueling (AAR). This marks the first time in history that an unmanned aircraft has refueled in-flight, according to the X-47B development team.
This achievement, alongside the X-47B’s autonomous launch from and recovery aboard an aircraft carrier in 2013 constitute a step forward in autonomy that has application in both manned and unmanned aircraft. Autonomous launch, recovery and refueling have the potential for reducing operational costs in the future.
"AAR testing with the X-47B helps solidify the concept that future unmanned aircraft can perform standard missions like aerial refueling and operate seamlessly with manned aircraft as part of the Carrier Air Wing," said Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager.