A Navy X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base. (USAF / Rob Densmore)

Catapulting Into History

The first catapult launch of an unmanned combat aircraft—and more milestones to come


Score another one for the drones. Yesterday the U.S. Navy demonstrated the first-ever (land-based) catapult launch of a pilotless combat vehicle, when the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System took off from a runway at Patuxent River, Maryland.

Earlier this week, another X-47B was loaded onto an aircraft carrier for sea trials. It won’t be long before unmanned vehicles are routinely performing carrier landings — a feat once reserved for only the nerviest pilots.



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