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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Navy Successfully Tests Autonomous Drone Landings

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Nicholas West

"History" was made in mid-May as Northrop Grumman's X-47B unmanned drone made its first launch at sea from the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. While the Navy says it wasn't intended for the immediate war environment, it was heralded by the commander of the Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral David Buss, as a monumental achievement:

Today we saw a small, but significant pixel in the future picture of our Navy as we begin integration of unmanned systems into arguably the most complex warfighting environment that exists today: the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Now, the Navy is announcing the successful landing of the same aircraft upon a moving flight deck at sea to which it returned after being stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

That event, as you will see below, is thought to herald the arrival of the autonomous drones of the future.

While the Pentagon has thus far insisted that automated systems will never supplant human decision making, and various military analysts don't see any type of autonomous machine warfare as likely before 2030, another video by defense contractor General Atomics puts a very specific date on the next generation of drone warfare - 2017.

This video speaks for itself in terms of the planned capabilities of the Predator C Avenger, but what should be highlighted is their stated goal to reduce the number of humans and increase the number of Unmanned Aerial Systems. Cost-reduction is mentioned as a key component of the flexibility that can be offered. This is the real future:

Also worth noting is the multiple weapons capability of this single aircraft, all wrapped up in a video game interface with its "plug and play" functionality. Does this convince you that warfare is likely to end anytime soon, or that drones are in the mere testing phase?

The drones of the future have likely been completed and are awaiting full rollout. This announcement is one more step in the conditioning of the public that the future of drone warfare is just around the corner, when it is already upon us.

But we should be happy to celebrate this history-making event.

Read other articles by Nicholas West Here

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