TJR’s Video Pick of the Week #15: Pilotless Drone X-47B “Completes First Carrier-Based Launch”

Take a moment to consider the future.


You can run, but you can’t hide! Today’s Predator drones can already circle above targets for up to 24 hours before firing their ordnance. Future drones promise to be even more lethal. (Photo: USAF)

Pilotless drone aircraft, high-speed robotic tanks, possibly even humanoid-shaped killing machines chase down and fire upon human troops, terrorists or other “enemy targets.” Such heavily armored mechanisms prove quite difficult to “kill,” enabling their faraway operators to achieve maximum destructive potential with minimal personal risk.

This future battlefield scenario is not as far-fetched as you (or even Hollywood filmmakers) may think. In fact, much of it is already going on around the world. While there are no Terminator robots (yet), there are already drone aircraft, drone helicopters and EOD bomb-defusing robots at use on the modern-day battlefield. The list of impressive warfare technology and its use by militaries around the world continues to grow exponentially.

One Giant Leap—For the Navy

On May 14th, 2013, the United States Navy took one giant leap forward with their X-47B, a full-sized experimental drone aircraft. Amazingly, the massive X-47B successfully took off from and landed back on the deck of an American aircraft carrier—all without a pilot on board.


Skynet’s fully robotic “human-killer” aircraft from the Terminator films don’t seem quite as far-fetched as they once did. (Photo: Orion Pictures)

Yes, America’s Predator and Desert Hawk drones have already been flying and fighting in the skies for many years, but the X-47B is a much larger airborne platform and is capable of carrying much heavier payloads (i.e. explosive ordnance). The success of the X-47B is indeed, quite an accomplishment. Go, Navy!

Bottom Line: This video originally caught our eye not because we approve or disapprove of what it is being heralded by many as “the rise of the machines.” Rather, we were intrigued by one question: What happens to the pilots and other air heroes? Already, many are chair-bound in bunkers or the bowels of ships with only a computer screen and joystick to “fly.” Hardly the exhilaration of flight the Wright Brothers anticipated. Still, imagine this cool plane in 1:6 scale—and it has fold-up wings!


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