In what may be a Kitty Hawk moment for an unmanned aircraft, an experimental drone made a 29-minute flight late Friday, lacking not only an onboard pilot, but one on the ground, flying the vehicle remotely.
"Such events are history in the making," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president and program manager for the X-47B program at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, which built the plane for the U.S. Navy. "We surpassed what we wanted to achieve with the flight."
The bat-winged, tail-less X-47B, one of two demonstrators built by Northrop Grumman, flew as high as 5,000 feet during its debut and touched down right on target.
"The team is still analyzing the data, but I will tell you the air vehicle performance was rock solid. It did exactly what was expected. The flight path was as planned, and preliminary feedback from the engineers was that it matched the model aerodynamics performance and guidance and control very well. That is a testament to the teams' hard work over the last few years and their expertise in this realm," program manager Jaime Engdahl told reporters during a call-in conference for the press.