The U.S. Navy said its jet-powered, bat-winged X-47B drone has conducted carrier deck operations and performed maneuvers alongside an F/A-18 fighter jet, marking the first time manned and unmanned aircraft have operated together on the same carrier.
Navy officials hailed the test flights of the experimental drone, which were completed Sunday on the Theodore Roosevelt in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, as a milestone in carrier-based naval aviation.
“Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations,” Capt. said Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s unmanned carrier aviation office, in a statement. “This is key for the future carrier air wing.”
Combat drones used by the Air Force and CIA are controlled remotely by a human pilot, often sitting thousands of miles away. The Navy drone is designed to carry out a combat mission controlled almost entirely by a computer.