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First Successful Unmanned Drone Landing On an Aircraft Carrier

samzenpus posted 1 year,10 days | from the let-the-computer-do-it dept.

The Military 176

redletterdave writes "Salty Dog 502 flew from the Patuxent River Naval Station in Maryland to the USS George H.W. Bush operating off the Virginian coast, but unlike other drones, Salty Dog was piloted entirely by computer without a human operator. The unmanned operation is considered one of the most difficult operations due to navigating the air and a moving ship, and many have said it's a major milestone in the development of drone warfare. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus described the event as witnessing the future and compared it to the first manned aircraft landed on a carrier in 1911."

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176 comments

all hail our new robot overloads. (2, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258455)

not really... the NSA can control them directly. probably the chinese too. all hail... the current power structure existing as-is.

Re:all hail our new robot overloads. (2)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259025)

"EDI is a Warplane. EDI must have targets."

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

Re:all hail our new robot overloads. (2, Funny)

rullywowr (1831632) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259679)

All your base are belong to us

Re:all hail our new robot overloads. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259931)

The NSA controls the Chinese?

just wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258479)

landed on a perfect clear day. wonder what happens when the seas are rough, the deck is pitching, and MOVLAS is rigged......

Re:just wait... (5, Informative)

Dorianny (1847922) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258521)

landed on a perfect clear day. wonder what happens when the seas are rough, the deck is pitching, and MOVLAS is rigged......

The first manned aircraft landing on a ship was also done on a perfect clear day after several weather driven delays.

Re: just wait... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258641)

Similarly, the first human heavier than air flight. That's why aviation has no future whatsoever.

Re:just wait... (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259135)

I still say this happened 5 years ago and is only now being declassified.

Re: just wait... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259777)

Nah. Navy isn't as crazy with the "classify even the fact that it exists!" as USAF is. Probably due to a culture of buying things that are too large to hide in the Nevada desert.

Re: just wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259905)

You just go on thinking that, nothing to see here [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

Re: just wait... (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259943)

Wasn't that just some experiment Lockheed funded on their own, back when the SkunkWorks was still going strong? I didn't think that ever received Navy funding.

Re: just wait... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260295)

Wasn't that just some experiment Lockheed funded on their own, back when the SkunkWorks was still going strong? I didn't think that ever received Navy funding.

"on their own"? You mean, they printed the money? Where do you think the money came from? Oh yeah, The Pockets of The People.

Re:just wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260271)

Also no reason why the Navy drone couldn't use the auto-land feature that piloted planes use to land on carriers in poor weather or visibility conditions. It's definitely good enough to have them trap a cable and get aboard in one piece, so it should work just as well for the robot.

And even though a drone doing carrier landings is interesting news, it's not that surprising. Should be expected to work first try or pretty near it. People have been doing simulated carrier traps with scale RC models for years, and they don't even have first-person view. Doing it with a drone should be pretty straight-forward since the procedure and bugs have been pretty much worked out with manned aircraft.

The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258511)

G.W. Bush landed on a carrier years before this.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (5, Informative)

Cryacin (657549) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258563)

Don't insult the drones. They have a far greater reaching spread of abilities and a much more complicated and adaptable intelligence engine.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259699)

I always love when some random internet wanker posting from his mom's basement posits that a man that:
a) flew fighter jets for the National Guard (deprecate it all you like, make smarmy comments about his attendance, whatever - nobody doubts that he flew and qualified in fighter jets, which was neither easy nor particularly safe)
b) Graduated Yale, and earned an MBA from Harvard (it's particularly noteworthy that he's the only president ever with an MBA...if he was a Democrat, that would be widely known)
c) won an election as Governor of TX over a popular opponent (Ann Richards)
d) won election to the Presidency of the United States. Won RE-ELECTION (by an even larger margin). ...is an idiot.

This man has actually accomplished a great deal in his life. Maybe he IS an idiot, but doesn't that make his accomplishments all that more impressive. Particularly compared to you - what have you done? (I mean, aside from generating snarky comments nearly-anonymously on an internet message board? I mean, of course that's pretty impressive alone...)

Of course, there's practically a Leftist industry of shat-smearing on Republicans (as opposed to Democrats that make 'journalists' legs tingle), so you can't really be blamed. The script has always been "Democrats brilliant, Republicans stoopid" so, if you cheerfully swallow when someone tells you to, that's the impression you're going to have.

But the sort of self-aggrandizing narcissist fantasyland you exist in to deprecate this man's accomplishments must be...impressive.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (4, Informative)

tristes_tigres (952446) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259781)

You are forgetting his biggest achievements:

- Invaded sovereign nation that did not threaten USA - the supreme war crime under Nurenberg statues. This war resulted in million+ excess deaths of Iraq populac, according to the Johns Hopkins Unuiversity study

- Established secret torture GULAG

- Declared habeas corpus void for "terorism" suspects

- Launched the total survelliance programs that Snowden now revealed

- Given away trillions of public money to corrupt and bankrupt Wall Street bankers

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (3, Insightful)

605dave (722736) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259825)

As a internet wanker posting from my own basement I'd say this,

a) He never flew off of carriers, and joined the National Guard to avoid actual combat service. There is also every indication that he went AWOL during his service to avoid drug testing.
b) As the son of the family he was in (at that time in American history), getting into those places is not that big of accomplishment.
c) He beat Ann Richards who was only the Governor of Texas for one term because her opponent completely screwed up his election. Bush was also riding the wave of change in the state that led to the craziness of Tom Delay and the current absurdities going on in our lege.
d) He didn't win the popular vote in his first election, and won his second election (barely) exploiting terrorism and gay marriage fears.

And yes I am Democrat, and yes I think W was a terrible president who thoroughly screwed up this country. I do not however think all Republicans are "stoopid". I do think the current crop of leaders such as Boehner and Cantor are not statesman or leaders like Bush Sr, James Baker, or going further back Eisenhower. But the Republican party has been hijacked by extremists, and GWB left our country in economic and foreign policy disasters. So yeah, I think he's an idiot.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260283)

I do think the current crop of leaders such as Boehner and Cantor are not statesman or leaders like Bush Sr,

You mean "running CIA death squads all over central and south america" Bush Sr.? Or did you mean grandpa Prescott Bush, who made the Bush family fortune knowingly funneling funding to Hitler's S.S.?

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260317)

I believe the original commenter conflated Jr. with Sr., who was indeed a Navy fighter pilot in WWII.

Everyone is under the mistaken belief that the President sets foreign policy. The White House actually has very limited latitude there, much less than Congress, which is schizoid by nature and has been suffering from (conveniet) dementia for a long time now. The real decisions are made elsewhere, often not even in this country. Congress just does what it's paid to do, on a very ad-hoc and erratic basis, but with one consistent goal that is completely antagonistic to the welfare and freedom of Americans.

Presidents know this going in, of course. Or they should. I'm told that at some point, somebody always sit them down and explains it to them, pointing to JFK as an object lesson, but that may be apocryphal. You may considered them flawed for taking the job, but that doesn't make them idiots. Jr. is no more an idiot than Obama. Less. If Obama tells you he's got your back, you better run for your life.

This is not a partisan observation. Or it is, but "both" "parties" consider it no sin to lie in service of the cause. Even to themselves.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259859)

The taunting isn't because he is an idiot. It's because he acted like an idiot, deliberately. He created his 'cowboy' persona, and showed a love of soundbites and a very informal manner of speech. Like all successful politicians, he was also something of an actor. He saw that there was a strong anti-intellectual element in the electorate, and deliberately appealed to them by looking far less intelligent than he really was.

That is, in my view, far worse than just being unintelligent. He deliberately turned education into something seen as a negative, and gave the impression that someone experienced in pracitcal cattle-wrangling would be more qualified to lead the country than a Harvard MBA... even though he had one himself.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260155)

If you are trying to suggest someone is qualified, mentioning an MBA is a bad move. Point d is more a comment on the stupidity of americans though.

The rest I agree with.

I think the typical belief is republican voters are stupid, no their candidates. I am not sure how true it is, but the folks at the tea party gatherings did not do much to change that image. Those folks and the religious nuts the Barry Goldwater warned of are what likely cause this perception.

Republicans sure seem to hate him now but that man was basically a fortune teller as far as the party was concerned.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260379)

Cryacin - Are you 12 or what??? Grow up...

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258683)

1. Bush isn't a drone but an ape.
2. It was his pilot who landed, he was just baggage.

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259055)

I'm an ape, you insensitive clod!

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259235)

That he did. Respect++++++++++

Re:The claim of first drone landing is incorrect ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260289)

...as a passenger in an S-3.

It's not like they gave him the controls.

Is the software used for its computers called (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258523)

Skynet?

Re:Is the software used for its computers called (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258655)

Now the next big milestone is a fully automated takeoff, identification and destruction of a target, and return to landing. That'll be so awesome! I can't even imagine the milestones that will follow.

Re:Is the software used for its computers called (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259245)

No that's just a movie, a human was flying this drone.

Re:Is the software used for its computers called (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259309)

umm...no?

a peaceful dream (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258529)

I personally hope the next one fails to land and ends up killing hundreds of your servicemen.

Peace.

Re:a peaceful dream (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258553)

vomit.

Re:a peaceful dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258555)

What will happen next is:
Unmanned Drone Landing On Unmanned Aircraft Carrier.

Re:a peaceful dream (3, Funny)

Cenan (1892902) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258569)

And after that:
Air Force will realize that it's stupid to have a carrier that's also a boat, build a plane and the prophecy that is Starcraft will come to pass.

Re:a peaceful dream (2)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259037)

and then the zerg discover the borg?

imagine a threesome with infested kerrigan and the borg queen... rawr!

Re:a peaceful dream (3, Informative)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259465)

Flying aircraft carriers? It's been done [airships.net]

Re:a peaceful dream (1)

Cenan (1892902) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259631)

Fascinating. I wonder why they kept taking it on drills but not include the fixed wing aircraft that were supposed to be the main selling point (did they not know this yet, or was it a spending issue?).

Re: a peaceful dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258645)

No. Next is unmanned plane landed on unmanned plane.

Re:a peaceful dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260175)

no it will do this to your civillians
trust us

Dumbass title is dumbass (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258541)

"unmanned" != "unpiloted"

Remotely piloted vehicles are unmanned (technically may be, but there could be passengers).

Computer-controlled vehicles also may be manned (e.g. Google self-driving vehicle shenanigans).

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258663)

Mods on crack!

Seriously, why in the world was that modded down?

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259091)

Perhaps we have unpiloted mods.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (5, Informative)

MindCrusher (1249502) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259193)

Maybe because it clearly states WITHOUT A HUMAN OPERATOR.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259535)

Mods on crack!

Seriously, why in the world was that modded down?

Maybe because the dumbass subject was dumbass subject was dumbass subject was dumbass subject was dumbass or something.

Though, it should have been modded redundant modded redundant, not overrated.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259541)

Exactly.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (2)

jimbolauski (882977) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259857)

"unmanned" != "unpiloted"

Remotely piloted vehicles are unmanned (technically may be, but there could be passengers).

Computer-controlled vehicles also may be manned (e.g. Google self-driving vehicle shenanigans).

I know it's a lot to RTFA but could you at least RTFS before you post.

Salty Dog was piloted entirely by computer without a human operator.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260037)

and maybe you should read the post you are commenting on. It is obvious he RTFS (and maybe even the fA)
and was complaining that the *title* was wrong.

Re:Dumbass title is dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260275)

The more correct way to put it would be 'unmanned and unpiloted' but that doesn't roll off the tongue very well. The possibilities:

1. Unmanned by people, and not piloted by people(the thing in the article)
2. Unmanned by people, and piloted by people(drone operator sitting at a desk while controlling said drone)
3. Manned by people, and not piloted by people(Auto pilot is a good example, which can easily cover everything excluding take off and landing. more advanced systems, obviously, can take care of these two as well).
4. Manned by people, and piloted by people(a 'normal' airplane)

The device in the article was not piloted by humans, but it also wasn't manned by humans, so it's fair to say it was an unmanned drone landing on an aircraft carrier. As far as I can tell, it is the first unmanned drone to land on a carrier(I tried google, but this story was the only thing to pop up). Unless someone has proof of another drone landing on a carrier that was unmanned but piloted by someone, the title is still valid.

And true democracy, around the world, cries (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258557)

It's time for this war-footed nation to put down it's weapons of mass destruction and join the world community in peace.

America, we of the world do not like your hegemony.

Re:And true democracy, around the world, cries (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258623)

Of course not. You'd much prefer if YOU were the hegemons. We know your dirty little secrets, Europe - you just don't like playing second fiddle. You lot had no qualms invading Libya when it suited you, for vague "oh it's for stability democracy the people!"

Fuck off.

big whoop (0)

Gravis Zero (934156) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258561)

it's great that US mil think they are hot shit with unmanned drones but the japanese beat them a year ago in a big way. [space.com] The stakes are waaay higher in space. Worst case for a drone crash on a carrier is billions in damage. Worst case in space is taking down our only space station that took over a decade and 100 billion dollars to build and turn the station into a massive hazard for all future space missions.

and if you think getting Hellfire missile dropped on you is bad, just wait 'til you get hit by a Rod From God. [wikipedia.org] ;)

Re:big whoop (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258627)

Did you read the article you linked?

The unmanned, school bus-size H-2 Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3),..., flew to about 40 feet (12 meters) away from the ISS, where it was grabbed at 8:23 a.m. ET (1223 GMT) by the space station's 58-foot long (18 m) robotic arm, which was controlled from inside by astronauts

I'm not sure what your point is.

Re: big whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258661)

The point is, a manned drone performed as well as the American unmanned one. BTW, a space station is much more stable than a carrier on a pitching sea.

Re:big whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258771)

yeah, that is pretty close to what SpaceX's Dragon also does.

Re:big whoop (0)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259417)

Dragon is not docked, it's berthed. Furthermore, like the HTV, it needs to be grappled and berthed to the station manually.

Re:big whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258889)

His point is he thinks it is still the '80's when using the phrase 'big woop' is socially acceptable and the starwars program was not known to be a fraud yet.

He must be a time traveler, a jerk, or both. [xkcd.com]

Re:big whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258643)

Wow, the Japanese floated an unmanned vehicle "kinda near" the space station and let the space station scoop it up with its robotic arm. The equivalent would be a drone flying "kinda near" an aircraft carrier, and letting the aircraft carrier deploy a robotic arm to catch it and secure it on deck.

Tard.

Re:big whoop (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258665)

Landing on a carrier is much more difficult because the motions of the ship and the disturbances on the airplane are random. In space, the motions of all the objects are highly predictable.

Re:big whoop (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259259)

Great observation but i still find the calculations involved trivial.

Re:big whoop (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259277)

I mean seriously, you only need to account for the real time space-time relationship of two objects, it doesn't matter how they're moving, the fractal differential equation is the same.

Re:big whoop (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259293)

I seriously had this whiteboarded out in front of USAF leadership in 2004, you really think this shit is just happening now?

Re:big whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260233)

"You don't know what you're talking about do you?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZeDFwTcnCc

Re:big whoop (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260021)

I mean seriously, you only need to account for the real time space-time relationship of two objects, it doesn't matter how they're moving, the fractal differential equation is the same.

What the hell is a fractal differential equation? Maybe you meant a partial differential equation but I'm guessing that, at worst, the mathematics boils down to integrating out an ordinary differential equation .

Re:big whoop (3, Funny)

xQx (5744) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259787)

Great observation but i still find the calculations involved trivial.

Really Sheldon?

Show me.

Re:big whoop (0)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259411)

You are wrong.

Orbital rendezvous and docking is hard, but a totally different problem to landing a drone on an aircraft carrier.

The Russians built theirs decades ago (Progress dockings are automatic by default, with manual overrides). The European ATV has completely automatic rendezvous and docking. The operators in the station have an ATV console with two buttons on it only: "back off", and "abort".

The Japanese HTV has no automated docking capability. The HTV has to be grappled by the SSRMS when it comes into range. Actually on that side of the station, it's not even called "docking", they call it "berthing".

Do your homework. This took me seconds in Google.

Mission Accomplished! (2)

John.Banister (1291556) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258583)

I know. It's the wrong George. It'll still be a long time before that gets old for me.

Re:Mission Accomplished! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258629)

I wonder how long , if ever, that most people will take to understand the "Mission Acomplished" sign.

Those signs are completely normal to be placed on ships returning from deployment. Absolutely nothing in His speach hinted at him declaring Mission Accomploshed in the war. The only mentions made were for the sailors and marines aborard that ship.

Re:Mission Accomplished! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258719)

Then why did they trace the origins of that particular sign to a White House purchase, and not a Navy one?

Re:Mission Accomplished! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258787)

I wonder how long , if ever, that most people will take to understand the "Mission Acomplished" sign.

Those signs are completely normal to be placed on ships returning from deployment. Absolutely nothing in His speach hinted at him declaring Mission Accomploshed in the war. The only mentions made were for the sailors and marines aborard that ship.

In all fairness, the mission was about as "accomploshed" as anything can be. They 'ploshed it good and right, eh?

Re:Mission Accomplished! (1)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259089)

zomg! are you implying NBC was wrong?! shame on you unamerican terrorist redneck!

Re:Mission Accomplished! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259565)

He announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq in front of that banner. Rumsfeld announced an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan a few hours earlier. A month later, Bush said "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.". You can't see where that would be confusing?

guiding system (5, Interesting)

Dorianny (1847922) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258619)

The real question in my opinion is what kind of guiding system do the drones use. Flying by radar guidance is something that we have been doing for a long time, surface to air or air to air missiles use it to lock on a stay on target, unfortunately flying with active radar turned on you are putting a bullseye on yourself that makes it trivial for a enemy with any kind of air defenses to easily track it and shoot it down. Flying with visual guidance is considerably harder (by visual guidance I don't mean simply terrain contour matching to figure out its current location like the tomahawk). Most don't appreciate just how fast the human brain is in quickly figuring out and processing relevant information in the insane amount of visual data that enters our retinas every instant. Computers are nowhere near as good yet.

Re:guiding system (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258651)

Just a guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if it used stereoscopic vision to assess in figuring out the Z-plane and not just the X,Y. From there, it can infer the geometry and angle of approach of the carrier it's about to land on.

Re:guiding system (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258877)

Just a guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if it used stereoscopic vision to assess in figuring out the Z-plane and not just the X,Y. From there, it can infer the geometry and angle of approach of the carrier it's about to land on.

Furthermore, a carrier deck has markings and lights at precisely known locations. Just by tracking any three of these points, plus the GAIL (glide angle indicator light), the vision system should have enough information to nail the landing. This landing is a notable achievement, but I don't think the vision system was the hard part.

Re:guiding system (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258855)

the carrier it's landing on has beacons, could use passive
the carrier is running several radars.
the carrier is a big hulking pile of metal visible as far as the horizon.

also the human brain sucks for low level fast flying therefore it's done assisted in reality..

anyhow, isn't the article a dupe?

Re:guiding system (1)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259095)

what kind of guiding system do the drones use

made in china

Re:guiding system (2)

LordLucless (582312) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259261)

If the drones are landing on carriers in the middle of a carrier group, they're probably not too worried about being targeted.

mod uxp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44258769)

1.4 Billion and off to retirement (3, Informative)

foniksonik (573572) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258807)

The Salty Dog is one of two X-47B aircraft built by Northrop Grumman to experiment with incorporating drones onto aircraft carriers. It has a 2,000-mile range and can carry two guided bombs, though it is primarly designed for around-the-clock surveillance. The Salty Dog cost $1.4 billion.

The drones probably won’t see any combat. After a minimum of three landings on a carrier in the next week, they will be retired to flight museums in Florida and Maryland.

Instead, the Navy’s UCLASS program will design and build drones for aircraft carriers over the next three to six years. These drones will be used for both reconnaissance and strike missions. According to Reuters, they could be valuable as a counter to missiles in China and Iran designed to limit the range of the U.S. Navy.

They could have proven out the guidance systems with less expensive hardware. I'm sure some portion of those Billions was directly related to the effort but a significant amount was also dumped into the plane itself as labor and not recoverable.

Re: 1.4 Billion and off to retirement (4, Insightful)

jxander (2605655) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259443)

Prototypes are expensive, mate. Cost of progress. You're probably right, we could test the individual systems more cheaply, but lab tests in similar gear will only get you so far. At some point you need to do a full-up test run with the actual platform and all components.

Honestly, I would suspect that many MANY tests were run just like you suggested, prior to this event, and the combined cost of those tests (and rectifying and problems found) are all rolled up into that Total cost, driving that cost up further.

Re:1.4 Billion and off to retirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259629)

They have, apparently. There's also a Gulfstream flying with the same guidance hardware. Not suited for carrier landings and takeofs, of course, but it works in all other phases of flight. It's obviously easier to maintain, as most parts are standard. So I can see why they'd retire the X-47B drones once the carrier operations have been proven.

Re:1.4 Billion and off to retirement (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260197)

I wonder what the cost would have been to retrofit a current plane.

Heck, I always think an A-10 with drone brains would be super cool. Much cheaper per bang than using missiles too.

Re:1.4 Billion and off to retirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44260335)

It's all about fuel fraction. Current manned planes are usually not equipped to carry fuel to fly for longer than the human operators can stay awake, so making them unmanned without a redesign doesn't get you much.

Re:1.4 Billion and off to retirement (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260377)

That makes sense.

Perhaps the better answer then is to go get those glorious 30mm cannons and build a drone around them. These days though a smaller cannon could be used since we don't need to bust up Soviet vehicles.

I just think a drone with cannons would be cheaper than spending millions on a missile to take out a couple guys in a car.

unmanned drone? (3, Funny)

etash (1907284) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258815)

wasn't drone enough? is anyone aware of manned drones?

Re:unmanned drone? (1, Funny)

Required Snark (1702878) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258901)

Oh, you're referring to TANG, the Texas Air National Guard. That's where former president GW Bush managed to dodge going to Viet Nam and spend a lot of time AWOL, which is the old school version of pilotess flight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush_military_service_controversy [wikipedia.org]

Re: unmanned drone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259409)

Not necessarily. Occasionally, prototype drones will start out with a cockpit and test pilot. The pilot mostly just sits there, but has the capability to take control, just in case.

Unmanned drone means that they've moved past the "just in case" phase.

Re:unmanned drone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259829)

Most drones are piloted remotely. This one was preprogrammed to fly itself according to TFA

Re:unmanned drone? (1)

necro81 (917438) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260009)

Quite right.

People make problem [youtube.com] . Trust me: drone better.

Start of another era. (2)

TeAnne Pantony (2858145) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258847)

We go from TopGun-esque hotshot pilots to backdoor joystick fiddlers.

i call bull shit (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258881)

I drew out this tech in advanced training in 2004 at sheppard afb, this is just them admitting it.

Re:i call bull shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259713)

I drew out this tech in advanced training in 2004 at sheppard afb, this is just them admitting it.

Sorry to break this to you, but Harris Semiconductor Gov. Systems Div. in Palm Bay FL was working on systems for this in the late-1970s. They also did ASROC (Navy anti-submarine rocket-launched smart [for the '70s] torpedo) guidance systems. I was there.

Re:i call bull shit (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260001)

I drew out this tech in advanced training in 2004 at sheppard afb, this is just them admitting it.

this is about this particular high load model. press is getting it wrong, partly because pr is wrong.. it matters because this models development took 1.4 billion dollars.

Next up (1)

3seas (184403) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258915)

Unmanned aircraft carriers...

the key is thrust vectoring (1)

Jason Lind (683680) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258921)

You need to eliminate the moving wing parts so the computer controls the thrust and a human can just tell it what to do. The navier-stokes of a well designed craft are easy to program.

Re:the key is thrust vectoring (1)

crutchy (1949900) | 1 year,10 days | (#44259113)

The navier-stokes of a well designed craft are easy to program

maybe if you're Montgomery Scott of star trek vintage

Re:the key is thrust vectoring (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | 1 year,10 days | (#44260119)

Of course Navier-Stokes is easy to program. The equations have been around since the mid-1800s. They are damn tough to actually compute, which is why we don't run Navier-Stokes simulations in CFD. We run complex statistical models on top of the basic Navier-Stokes equations, in an attempt to make the simulation accurate at sufficiently coarse length and time scales that our puny modern supercomputers can actually manage. There's no way in hell their flight control system is based off the real-time computation of DNS on airborne hardware. You distill the flight dynamics down to a handful of coefficients, describing linear and angular acceleration due to control inputs at various flight conditions, and use that highly simplified model to run your flight control system.

Also, just how the fuck do you intend to control an aircraft with no moving parts? Are you proposing RCS thrusters, or some form of active flow control using compressor/exhaust bleed vents? You've been posting a lot on this topic about how you've done all this already, but you're just not making any sense. It's like you're just throwing out random technical jargon.

Americans have landed an interceptor on a carrier? (1)

FilatovEV (1520307) | 1 year,10 days | (#44258935)

Good deal.

Hurray (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,10 days | (#44259671)

for more creative, expensive and automated ways to spread the empire's deadly liberal "freedom".

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