The cruise videos aren't gonna be as cool though


After the carrier landing I was waiting for a ladder to extend and the Boston Dynamic’s Atlas to climb out with a thumbs up and aviator shades on.

I wonder what the ‘wave off’ procedure is, some guy with a ‘Cancel’ button on a screen I guess?


Older video…but I can’t help but think the squadron pilots were all silently crossing their fingers that the thing would go into the drink right off the catapult… (I wonder if it still gets the salute?)

It’s really interesting stuff, in that the need for 24 hour CAP coverage in bad times and automatic refuelling and the works does all make sense. Naval aviation is (for want of a better word) so romantic though, and this does take that away a bit.

One thing to consider is that that system is built completely around fitting in with how the existing human naval aviator pilot systems work, i.e. catapult tolerance, hitting that 3rd wire etc. As a thought exercise, if this thing can take stresses and strains (and G) that people can’t, then does it make sense to launch and recover it like that?

How long till a specialized carrier built just for autonomous drones comes up?


Catapult tolerance is more a function of stress on the airframe. I don’t believe the X-47 is capable of being launched from the older steam cats and must be launched from the new EMALS since it can be dialed back to a lower setting.

Shooting it from the steam cats would, over time at least, cause damage or excess wear to the nose gear since the X-47 is significantly lighter than current manned aircraft.

Rocket sleds…coming to a carrier near you!

One thing about that drone landing video…that 3-wire did seem “efffortless” to it huh?

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I’m sure it won’t have any trouble recovering. It’s probably got some black magic to fly a good pass every time. Plus, it doesn’t suffer from fatigue, vertigo, etc.

It’s about to get a lot easier for pilots, too, with upcoming software upgrades:

But, anyways… something something something skynet

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Ah, that makes sense - thanks.

Knowing something about AI and neural nets and the like, one disconnect in press stories is really between the advances in robotics and automation and something like a machine operating by itself in anything that could be described as thinking - they really are two separate classes of problem, with the latter being quite far behind.

Getting something to follow a refuelling procedure is impressive, but a lot of what that pilot is for is judgement calls of being able to analyze the developing situation around him/her. These X47’s will be great like the Global Hawk and Predator’s are good for, remote operation and enough autonomy to interpret intent given from a person. They are great when you don’t want someone to get tired or even where someone might get killed. I can see them being like part of the carrier’s self defence network, sat up there on CAP doing their thing at days at a time, with an operator babysitting them from the boat (or in an office in Nevada somewhere). Perhaps even one day robot wingmen too, as in a F-35 driver clicking something on a screen and doing the ‘now you pack of X47 guys go first’ command. :smile:

They’ve launched X-47’s from the Bush and Truman several times, so I’m not sure that’s an issue. Also, the rate at which the steam leaves the accumulator and enters the piston is throttled, as each plane is going to have a different launch weight, and trying to throw a T-45 Goshawk off the pointy end with a catapult setting that could once upon a time launch a fully loaded Tomcat would make for very humorous, but expensive, results.

Ahhh true, you make good points. Perhaps what I had seen before only suggested that long term usage of the UAVs was better suited for EMALS versus steam.

I read somewhere too you can actually dial in the weight and payload of an aircraft with modern steam catapults? so for the X-47 it should be no problem I suppose so long as the catapult is calibrated to such low weight.

Reading this again Navynuke said this already :smile:

I wonder if that scene in Behind Enemy Lines was accurate where they launched a baseball or something into the wind from a steam catapult … I doubt the catapult could measure that small of a mass or the people controlling it.

Stranger things have happened though and made it into movies.

The Wilson reference was funny though.

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Just thinking about this whole concept once more, we really should not be surprised the way things are going when you see how even Hobby drones are going, they have the ability to be controlled with little practise by nearly every joe shmuck owner for little outlay and even have the ability to return home once it realises the battery is almost done … very clever stuff!

GPS never used to be that accurate but its certainly come on a long way from when it was first introduced.

One of my Female friends posted on FB last year with her first hobby drone experiments with a HD cam onboard, the results were impressive and from a fair altitude, we live fairly close to a big RAF base too so I’m not sure how much this would be tolerated for many reasons? but I’d not want to see hobby drones banned altogether, just tighter restrictions on when and what they are being used for.

Fascinating stuff though.

It must be an engineers dream. No more pilot physiology to consider… None of that O2, pressurization, less temperature/climate considerations, none of the human factors controls, knobs, etc… The weight savings will be enormous…which means - more fuel, more weapons/payload weight, better performance, etc… It will be interesting to see the amazing craft they come up with. But color me sad anyway…drone warfare…ugh…