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Navy launches drone from aircraft carrier for first time

Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis / US Navy via AP

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on May 6.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter / US Navy via EPA

Sailors move an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator onto an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush at an unspecified location in the Atlantic Ocean, on May 14.

Jason Reed / Reuters

Northrop Grumman test pilots Bruce McFadden, left, and Dave Lorenz are pictured with their arm-mounted controllers after they successfully launched an X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft for the first time off an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, on May 14.

By Nidhi Subbaraman, NBC News

The U.S. Navy's X-47B drone has become the first unmanned craft to complete a catapult launch from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Today's demonstration took place on the USS George H.W. Bush, off the coast of Virginia.

After a flight of an hour and five minutes, the drone touched down at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

This drone didn't land on the carrier, nor has any, to date. A similar X-47B completed a carrier-style landing at Patuxent River earlier this month, catching a length of heavy cabling on the tarmac and coming to a short stop after touchdown, as it might on a ship deck. Read the full story.

 

Jason Reed / Reuters

An X-47B drone is launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier, on May 14.

Alan Radecki / US Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman via AFP - Getty Images

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator is launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush during flight operations in the Atlantic Ocean on May 14.

Jason Reed / Reuters

An X-47B performs a fly-by after being launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, on May 14.

Steve Helber / AP

A Navy X-47B drone does a fly-by over the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush after it was launched off the coast of Virginia, on May 14. The plane isn't intended for operational use, but it will be used to help develop other unmanned, carrier-based aircraft.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter / US Navy via EPA

An X-47B is lifted on an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier 'USS George H.W. Bush' at an unspecified location in the Atlantic Ocean, on May 14.