The US Navy is preparing to conduct a series of test activities with the aim of nailing down air standard operating procedures for air traffic control and ground support designed to allow the X-47B unmanned aircraft to operate alongside manned aircraft, both in the air and on the deck of a flight carrier.
Over the coming months, the US Navy plans to conduct various shore-based flight test activities in Patuxent River airspace in an effort to develop procedures for manned and unmanned aircraft sharing the same airspace in both day and nighttime operations.
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These shore-based tests will be followed by the X-47B's return to an aircraft carrier in August, this time the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Having become the first unmanned aircraft to takeoff and land on a modern aircraft carrier last year, the team will now look to perfect flight deck operations and integrate the unmanned X-47B with manned aircraft.
"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."
Funk says verifying these functions will allow the X-47B to take off, land, and hold the same pattern as a manned aircraft, thereby marking a significant step towards unmanned aircraft operating aboard aircraft carriers without disrupting normal flight deck operations.
The goal for the upcoming sea-based trials is to have the X-47B clear the flight deck within 90 seconds after landing and demonstrate that the aircraft can exhibit the same deck handling capabilities of a manned aircraft.
Source: Naval Air Systems Command