Software Allows The
X-47B Aircraft To Be Operate From Deck Of Aircraft Carrier
By Jim Douglas
July 6, 2011 - The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman
Corporation have successfully completed a demonstration
of the ship-based software and systems that will allow
the X-47B unmanned air vehicle to operate from the deck
of an aircraft carrier.
The test, conducted July 2 in the western Atlantic with
the Navy carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69),
culminated with several successful launches and
recoveries of a manned surrogate aircraft equipped with
X-47B precision navigation control software.
"This manned surrogate test event is a significant and critical step toward landing the X-47B on the carrier deck in 2013," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, U.S. Navy, program manager, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS).
represents the first end-to-end test of the hardware and
software systems that will eventually allow unmanned systems to
integrate safely and successfully with all aspects of carrier
operations." Strong collaboration between the engineers of U.S.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Northrop Grumman was key
to the successful test, he added. Northrop Grumman is the Navy's
prime contractor for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier
Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. A Navy/Northrop Grumman test
team conducted first flight of the X-47B in February.
precision navigation and control capability demonstrated by the
UCAS-D team represents a potential 'breakthrough' capability for
the Navy," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president, N-UCAS for
Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "It could be
applied, in theory, to any manned or unmanned carrier-compatible
aircraft, which could have a dramatic effect on the tempo and
efficiency of future carrier operations."
to Glenn Colby, NAVAIR's aviation/ship integration lead, the
biggest challenge associated with landing an unmanned system on
a carrier deck is automating ? and removing any ambiguity from ?
flight procedures and communications between aircraft and ship
that have traditionally been performed manually by pilots and
the ship's air operations personnel.
carrier environment relies on human operators to monitor and
ensure safe flight operations," said Colby. "As we begin to
integrate unmanned systems into this very restrictive manned
environment, we have to ensure that the software controlling
these new systems can recognize and respond correctly to every
type of contingency."
Colby and his team
at NAVAIR's N-UCAS Aviation/Ship Integration Facility (NASIF) at
Patuxent River, prepared for the surrogate testing through a steady
build-up of rigorous software simulations and flight tests.
First, they used
early versions of the software that the X-47B will use to operate at the
carrier to simulate command and control, air traffic control and
navigation exchanges between the aircraft and the carrier. Then they
progressed to more robust simulations that included X-47B avionics and
an X-47B mission operator station, all in the NASIF lab.
Next were flight
tests of X-47B hardware and software installed on a King Air Beech 300
aircraft. The King Air flew in the vicinity of CVN-69 ? both pier-side
in Norfolk, Va., and while underway ? to test mission management,
command and control, communications, air traffic control and navigation
functions between the X-47B software and the ship.
In addition to the
King Air, the test team used a surrogate F/A-18 aircraft equipped with
X-47B software and avionics to evaluate the most challenging areas of
launch and recovery operations. Initial testing at Patuxent River
focused on verifying that aircraft sensors, navigation, guidance and
control systems were ready for shipboard testing.
"Using a manned
surrogate platform to test the unmanned systems avionics and software
gives us an extra layer of safety as we test the X-47B software to
ensure that it responds correctly and safely to different flight
conditions," explained Colby.
|?AvStop Online Magazine Contact Us Return To News|