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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

X-47B: Drones Live

Those of us in the civilian world, we have known they have been flying drones in the military for many years. They're crashing them regularly along the boarder. But I have yet to see one fly... until now. My friend sent me the information about the X-47B with the You Tube video. Very cool. A great idea for war... carrying passengers, I don't think so.

"July 10, 2013, the Navy successfully conducted take-offs and landings from a fairly new nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS George W. Bush, with a new stealth jet called theX-47B.

What is so different about this plane is the fact that it is a 'drone'. Yes, it is completely unmanned. Drones come in all sizes, and theX-47B is likely one of the larger ones.

What is so ironic about all of this is, the fact that the enemy cannot detect a plane like this in the first place. In the unlikely event they get lucky at shooting one down, there will be no human loss of life or captivity. As you view the flight deck crew signaling the plane, they are simply signaling the on-board cameras, who in turn are being manned by staff inside the command intelligence center (CIC) on board the ship. Also check out the short distance this plane needs for a takeoff. Impressive."

What do you think... 
are drones the future of 
 Commercial Aviation?

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene


  1. The advantages of the unmanned drone in that carrier scenario are huge. It's not the pilot getting shot down that is the driving factor. The pilot on board is a limitation. You can add up all this weight that is only there because there is a pilot, starting with the ejection seat and canopy. And pilots can't fly for as long as the plane can stay aloft (especially with mid-air refueling), but the drone can be flown by a crew at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and after a few hours they swap out the pilot for a fresh one.

    No pilot needed in the plane means you don't need the pilots on the carrier, either. Or any of the pilot support staff. No ready room necessary. All of that space, cargo, personnel is saved and moved off of the carrier to an air force base instead. Out of the zone of conflict entirely.

    Fewer people on the carrier means more room for aircraft, which means more capability for the carrier group.

    It is going to be a REALLY long time before people are comfortable having their airliners flown from the ground (which is the way it would happen first). We'll see cars driven by computers first. Then you'll see some charter jets with a single pilot in the cockpit backed up by someone on the ground (who could "fly" several aircraft, a big savings in pilot costs).

    1. Colin, Thank you so much for your comment. For a military these are all valid reasons. I had not thought of the weight issues. And if we lose a drone or two, we're just talking about money. So, I'm hoping we won't see a drone flying passengers in my travels. :) But I suspect we are headed that way.

      Question for you... I've read that the drones covering the boarder don't have a good track record. Do you have the stats on the number of crashes and why?

  2. Thanks for sharing this with your readers. I too have seen the videos and read the 'public' details. I usually agree with you and this is no exception: UAV technology is a good thing and huge advances have been made. These devices, armed or intelligence gathering only, hold a major place in military aviation. With a few more years of development, the technology may be able to operate a civilian transport aircraft (emphasis on may), but I still will not accept it. The military has lost a lot of this type aircraft and they write it off to research or even combat loss and thankfully without losing a pilot. For civilian transportation, where the cargo is 50 or 500+ civilians, Hell No! Even if she takes a god book along, or he works on knitting slippers until some alarm goes off, I want a minimum of two fully qualified pilots in the pointy end every time I fly. How to keep those boys and girls fully qualified is a conversation we're already having, a subject for perhaps a different form, but a continuing conversation that needs to be had. In my view, even when the technology progresses to achieve far better results, NO! I want to see qualified pilots up there, pilots equipped with that Big Red smash button that says FLY - and who know how to do so. -C.

    1. Craig, I am with you!! I vote qualified pilots. And yes, we are working every day toward that goal! Thank you for the great comment!

  3. A scary thought for sure in regards to the commercial side. "You can teach a monkey to fly but you can't teach it how to think" comes into mind.

    1. YES you can! And...ironically, Tom wrote about this subject today. We did not plan this. Coincidence? :)

  4. Karlene you are wrong on how the X-47B is taxied on board the ship. If you look at 1;19 in the video you will see a Man with a box, He drives it like an RC car. Only when its secure on the Cat does he release control to the the UAS. The contact with the CIC is just for release into the airspace around the carrier. The X-47B flies its programmed flight autonomously.

    1. David, thanks for pointing that out. There may have been others who interpreted it the way you did.

      I quoted the text about the plane, as it was sent by a friend. When I saw the video and read the text, I read the comment..... "As you view the flight deck crew signaling the plane, they are simply signaling the on-board cameras, who in turn are being manned by staff inside the command intelligence center (CIC) on board the ship".... as a statement strictly for clearance for departure, not for taxi.

      I did see the remote control, and I believe it's discussed somewhere. Maybe in this video or perhaps another. Definitely not very clear.

      Thank you for pointing out that detail!


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