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Top Gun Meets Terminator: U.S. Autonomous Stealth Drone X-47B

In Archive, Drones, Military, Technology on November 30, 2012 at 8:59 PM

The US Navy has executed the first launch of a stealth drone set to be the first robot aircraft piloted by artificial intelligence. The “killer robot” might be the next step in the development of machines with the power to decide who lives or dies.

­Landing on a flight deck just might be the most difficult thing a naval pilot can do. But if the United States Navy has its way, it might be an operation no pilot ever has to complete again.

After five-years in the making, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first land-based catapult launch, “marking the start for a new era of naval aviation,” the navy announced on Thursday.

With a wingspan of 62-feet (18.9m), the subsonic drone will be the first tailless aircraft ever to land on a carrier.

“The X-47B shore-based catapult launch we witnessed here today will leave a mark in history,” the navy quotes Vice Adm. David Dunaway, NAVAIR commander, as saying.

“We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn’t envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here,” he continued.

Engineers had originally planned 50 test flights from the X-47B, but after performing beyond expectations, they stopped after 16 trials.

Following the dozen-plus successful trials, the next step came on Monday, when the drone was hoisted on to the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman.

After a series of upcoming sea trials planned for 2013, the X-47B is set to become the world’s first unmanned aircraft piloted by artificial intelligence rather than a remote human operator.

The subsonic stealth drone, first dreamed up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and later taken over by the navy, has been given a robot brain, putting it miles above the thousands of other unmanned drones currently circling the skies. While automation has long been a feature of robots, the X-47B will truly be autonomous.

People will still have a say in the X-47B’s overall mission, though the drone will be able to make split-second decisions in a real-time environment all on its own.

So while a living and breathing operator might select its flight path, a medley of GPS equipment, accelerometers, altimeters, gyroscopes, collision avoidance sensors and its highly-evolved Control Display Unit will leave the X-47B’s moment-to-moment decisions out of human hands.

For those reminded of SkyNet’s self-aware Hunter Killer aerials from the Terminator films, the Pentagon announced earlier this month announced that the decision to hurt or kill a human being would never be made by a machine.

With two weapon bays capable of carrying up to 4,500lbs (2 tonnes) of ordnance, the X-47B certainly has the ability to kill, though for now, it does not have the will.

  1. [...] said Sharkey. “The research wing of the Pentagon in the US is working on the X47B [unmanned plane] which has supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, a craft [...]

  2. [...] Top Gun Meets Terminator: U.S. Autonomous Stealth Drone X-47B [...]

  3. [...] into development,” said Sharkey. “The research wing of the Pentagon in the US is working on the X47B [unmanned plane] which has supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, a craft [...]

  4. […] Top Gun Meets Terminator: U.S. Autonomous Stealth Drone X-47B […]

  5. […] Top Gun Meets Terminator: U.S. Autonomous Stealth Drone X-47B   Lethal robots — drones that can select targets and fire without direct human say-so, essentially — are officially no longer a matter for science fiction. Yesterday, France submitted a letter to the United Nations demanding a formal disarmament conversation about these weapons. Egypt actually went a step further, calling for international regulations on so-called “killer robots” even before any such system has been built. More… Related Links: Stop the Killer Robots: Expert Warns of Real-Life Skynet Rise of the Machines: Why Increasingly “Perfect” Weapons Help Perpetuate Wars and Endanger Our Nation DARPA/Boston Dynamics: ATLAS / Big Dog / Cheetah / WildCat […]

  6. […] a capability, which is also said to be included in drones like the American X-47B and the French Neuron, has opened up tempting new horizons for waging war for the military, but has […]

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