NGC and Team N-UCAS have successfully tested navigation and control systems to be used in the tailless UAV’s carrier variant using an FA-18D from NAS Patuxent River:
“What we saw here today is cutting edge technology for integrating digital control of autonomous carrier aircraft operations, and most importantly, the capability to automatically land an unmanned air system aboard an aircraft carrier,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS Program Manager. “Successfully landing and launching a surrogate aircraft allows us to look forward to demonstrating that a tailless, strike-fighter- sized unmanned system can operate safely in the carrier environment.”
Demonstrating the UCAS-D system with a proven carrier aircraft, the F/A-18D, significantly reduces risk of landing an unmanned system aboard the ship for the first time. The F/A-18 surrogate aircraft, provided by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, is controlled with actual avionics and software that are being incorporated on X-47B UCAS-D aircraft.
“Surrogate testing allows us to evaluate ship systems, avionics systems, and early versions of the unmanned vehicle software with a pilot in the loop for safety,” said Glenn Colby, team lead for UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration. “With this we can verify our interfaces and functionality while minimizing the risk to an unmanned vehicle.”