US drone completes first in-flight refuelling

X-47B test leads to future Navy drone program

The U.S. Navy's unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight

The U.S. Navy's unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight

The US military has successfully demonstrated what it says is the first ever in-flight refuelling of an unmanned aircraft, and in doing so completed a flight test program that leads to a new generation of military drones due to take flight in the 2020s.

The refueling was conducted on April 22 in the Atlantic Test Range, off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. There, an X-47B autonomous aircraft automatically maneuvered itself to mate with the refueling probe trailing a K-707 tanker aircraft and receive over 4000 pounds of fuel, the U.S. Navy said.

(See video of the refueling on IDG.TV)

The X-47B is an experimental drone built by Northrop Grumman as part of the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration program and it has been flying since 2011. During its testing, it has performed others firsts such as a catapult launch from an aircraft carrier and a landing.

It has served as a testbed for technologies that will be incorporated into UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike), an unmanned drone program the Navy is developing for use from aircraft carriers.

Inflight refuelling allows aircraft, both manned and unmanned, to considerably extend how long they can stay in the sky. The X-47B has a range of 2000 nautical miles, but that is on the low side compared to production drones in use by the US military. The RQ-4 Global Hawk, also built by Northrop Grumman, has a range of over 8000 miles.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags roboticsU.S. NavyNorthrop Grumman

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?