US Navy tests aircraft piloted by artificial intel

Last Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 - 16:41

London: The US Navy is testing a stealth drone set to be the world`s first unmanned, robot aircraft piloted by artificial intelligence rather than a remote human operator.

In case the futuristic killer drone completes all its sea trials then it will be first aircraft capable of autonomously landing onto an aircraft carrier.

The X-47B drone is designed to take off, fly a pre-programmed mission then return to base in response to a few mouse clicks from its operator, the `Daily Mail` reported.

Regarded as the US military`s latest robot weapon, the aircraft comes amid fears that the handing over of warfare to artificial intelligence could lead to disastrous unforeseen consequences.

The difference between the X-47B and a manned drone is that it will not be driven movement by movement by a remote - like a remote control car.

Instead, it will be controlled by a forearm-mounted box called the Control Display Unit which can independently think for itself, plotting course corrections and charting new directions.

The unmanned drone will be set an objective by a human operator, for example a target to look at, and it will fly there using technology such as Global Positioning System (GPS), autopilot and collision avoidance sensors.

Contractors hoisted the test prototype of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System on to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in preparation for its first carrier-based testing.

A team from the US Navy`s Unmanned Combat Air System program office also embarked on the carrier to oversee the tests and demonstrations.

It is hoped that the X-47B, which boasts a wingspan of more than 62 feet, will demonstrate seamless integration into carrier flight deck operations through various tests.

The size of a jet fighter, yet without a tail fin, the stealth drone is produced by Northrop Grumman, which also produces the similar, except larger and manned, B-2 Stealth Bomber, the report said.

The aircraft caused a stir over the summer when it was mistaken for a genuine UFO as it was transported through Washington DC on its way for tests at a navy airbase.

It is not yet clear whether the drone will be able to open fire without explicit authorisation from its controller.


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First Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 - 16:41

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