In what is being called a history-making first, an unmanned Navy drone aircraft was refueled in mid-air.
The first in-air refueling occurred in 1923, but since then it has only ever been between two manned aircraft.
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A report by the Naval Air Systems Command notes, “While flying off the coast of Maryland and Virginia in the Atlantic Test Ranges, the X-47B connected to an Omega K-707 tanker aircraft and received over 4,000 pounds of fuel using the Navy’s probe-and-drogue method.”
The Navy wants to develop a permanent fleet of X-47Bs that can operate along with manned aircraft. A spokesperson for Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program explained why this achievement is noteworthy, “In manned platforms, aerial refueling is a challenging maneuver because of the precision required by the pilot to engage the basket…Adding an autonomous functionality creates another layer of complexity.”
X-47B has also been successfully tested to land and takeoff from the deck of a moving aircraft carrier.
What do you think about this evidence of a Navy drone refueled mid-air for the first time? What could it mean for the future of drone aircraft?
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