The U.S. Navy completed the first-ever landing of an unmanned drone on an aircraft carrier, as the Northrop Grumman (NOC) plane piloted itself onto the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush on Wednesday.
The Navy drone had made successful landings on land, but Wednesday’s arrested landing—using a system of cables on the aircraft carrier’s deck—by “Salty Dog 502” was the first of its kind.
“Today’s historic carrier landing and our operations aboard USS George H.W. Bush show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tailless unmanned aircraft can integrate seamlessly and operate safely from an aircraft carrier at sea,” Capt. Jaime Engdahl, program manager for the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System, said in a statement.
Escorted by two Navy F/A-18 fighter jets, the X-47B demonstrator aircraft, a $1.4 billion military project, took off from Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland before landing on the USS Bush off the coast of Norfolk, Va.
The ship’s crew then turned the drone around and catapulted it off the USS Bush.
The Navy’s unmanned drone flies autonomously using just the aircraft’s robotic brain, unlike Air Force and CIA drones that are operated remotely.
Although the X-47B flies itself, Northrop Grumman contractors are able to control the drone at any time.
Shares of Northrop Grumman were up 72 cents at $87.62 in late morning trading Thursday.