"We became confident in the airplane's performance and began doing carrier suitability work. We emulated how testing would go at Pax River and the ship," said Parmenter. "The aircraft performed touch-and-go's and heavy-weight landings. It also turned downwind, turned in pattern and came back around to do a landing, which may seem fairly benign but it's rather unusual for unmanned aerial systems."
According to Parmenter, once the X-47B gets new software it will begin preparing for two upcoming carrier demonstrations scheduled for December of this year and April of 2013. During these, the X-47B will validate its ability to land on the moving flight deck of a carrier and seamlessly blend in to the environment dominated by visual cues.
"The carrier environment is currently driven by hand signals and voice communications. The UCAS-D team must translate that visual world into unambiguous digital instructions so there is precision communication at all times between the aircraft and ship, and is prepared to respond correctly to all situations," said McKinney.
Additionally, an autonomous aerial refueling demonstration is scheduled for 2014.
With only 11 aircraft carriers in the United States Navy inventory, aerial refueling would give them the capability to go just about anywhere in the world. Also, the tailless, fighter-sized X-47 is capable of carrying a payload of up to 4,500 pounds giving the Navy a potential strike capability.
"The Navy wants to make sure the airplane will work with the aircraft carrier - it has to work right the first time. The design must be carrier compliant and be absolutely integrated seamlessly to the aircraft carrier environment. No special rules; same rules of engagement; rhythm of the flight deck; space limitations; landing; getting in line and taking off," said Parmenter. "This aircraft really represents a much more autonomous vehicle. It establishes a whole new confidence level and really advances the technology."
by Laura Mowry
Copyright Targeted News Services
The test means the Navy is one step closer to demonstrating the first carrier-based recoveries and launches of an autonomous, low-observable relevant unmanned aircraft.
The flight test lasted approximately 29 minutes and was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, CA.