Aviation history was made on Wednesday when a drone landed on an aircraft carrier for the first time ever.
Northrop Grumman’s X-47B unmanned aircraft became the first drone to successfully come to a full-stop landing on an aircraft carrier at sea.
The X-47B flew from a Maryland naval base to the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush stationed off the Virginia coast.
The aircraft deployed a tail hook that caught an arresting cable, which is exactly the same procedure followed by naval aviators.
Aircraft carrier landings are one of the most challenging maneuvers a pilot can face. They have to contend with shifting winds, wind speed, and the moving carrier.
The fact that an unmanned drone was able to land successfully on a carrier is a huge accomplishment and a giant step forward in drone aviation.
“People make unmanned aviation possible and it is people who will provide the fresh thinking and new ideas so crucial to successes like the X-47B program and the unmanned aircraft of the future,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement announcing the drone landing.
The X-47B, which cost $1.4 billion, previously made history as the first drone aircraft to take off from an aircraft carrier.
It has also performed touch-and-go landings without the use of an arrestor cable and practiced arrested landings on solid ground.
Drones are increasingly being used in the fight against terrorism and as has been revealed lately in surveillance at home.
Even though the X-47B will never be put into service, the Navy went ahead and used it for testing purposes.
After getting $2 billion from the Pentagon in 2000 in order to develop the aircraft, Northrop has seen budget cuts that ended the program.
The X-47B is run mostly by a computer program, though it is made clear that the craft is monitored by a human and does not “think on its own.”
What do you think about a drone landing on an aircraft carrier for the first time ever?
[Image via Shutterstock]