The X-47B Drone Plane Can Carry 4,500 Pounds Of Weapons And Operate All On Its Own
The X-47B drone took its first recorded flight in September and the Navy announced it will be able to refuel itself by 2014.
The move will allow the X-47B to remain in flight well beyond 3,000 nautical miles, a long time, 10 times the ability of a traditional manned fighter. And it will be doing it with no one at the controls.
Not only will there be no pilot in the cockpit, thee won’t be one anywhere.
The drone will be programmed to fly autonomously and W.J. Hennigan at The Los Angeles Times points out this ability may be the first in a whole new era of military action conducted by independently operating machines.
The Robot Wars
These robot weapons will have a human programmed flight plan and the ability to be overridden, but they’re already raising some concerns.
Hennigan talked to computer scientist and robotics pro Noel Sharkey who makes a good point. « Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability, » Sharkey says. « This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment? »
Sharkey sees this as such a big deal he compares it to the development of gas warfare in World War I and the advent of nuclear weapons during World War II.
Good questions. After all, the X-47B will be doing its own thing for indefinite periods of time. Hennigan points out that while flying, the drone will also conclude what type of weapons it’s carrying, decide if it’s under a possible threat, when it needs to be refueled, and where to find an aerial tanker.
The UAV will even perform the Navy’s most difficult maneuver and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
As Northrop Grumman’s X-47B program manager, Carl Johnson says, « [The X-47B] will do its own math. »
Leur presse (Robert Johnson, Business Insider, 26 janvier 2012)