Navy Drone Lands On Carrier: Watch Unmanned Aircraft X-47B Make First Ever Computer-Controlled Touchdown [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on July 10, 2013 10:39 PM EDT

drone lands carrier
An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft is launched from the deck of the USS George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, July 10, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

A Navy drone landed on an aircraft carrier on Wednesday, marking the first ever fully computerized landing of a drone the size of a fighter jet. The combat drone, which closely resembles a B-2 stealth bomber, has a 62-foot wingspan, can reach subsonic speeds, and has a range of 2,400 miles.

The Navy drone, which landed on the USS George HW Bush about 80 miles off the coast of Virginia, made history with its unprecedented unmanned landing.

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"By evolving and integrating new technology like the X-47B and the unmanned aircraft to follow, carriers will remain relevant throughout their 50-year lifespan," Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, said in a statement.

Unlike other combat drones, which are controlled remotely by a pilot, the X-47B is completely controlled by a computer. The Guardian reports the fact that the Navy drone landed on a carrier is a remarkable feat, given that the maneuver is one of the most difficult in aviation. From The Guardian:

The drone, followed by manned chase aircraft, flew from a Maryland airstrip on a pre-programmed flight path closely overseen by navy officials on land and on the deck of the Bush. It carried the call-sign Salty Dog 502. Once cleared by the landing signal officer, who had the distinction of being the first person to approve a robot for landing at sea, Salty Dog 502 put its hook down, caught the wire, and wrote a new chapter in naval history.

Watch a video of the historic Navy drone landing on the carrier:

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