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X-47B Unmanned Aircraft Demonstrates the First Autonomous Aerial Refuelling

Issue 60

Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy successfully demonstrated fully autonomous aerial refuelling (AAR) with the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft today, marking the first time in history that an unmanned aircraft has refuelled in-flight.

This is another historic aviation milestone for the X-47B, which in 2013 became the first unmanned aircraft to autonomously launch from and recover aboard an aircraft carrier. In combination, these landmark demonstrations constitute a major step forward in autonomy that has application in both manned and unmanned aircraft. Autonomous launch, recovery and refuelling have the potential for reducing operational costs in the future.