Navy drone fails in third aircraft carrier landing attempt

By Dianna Cahn The Virginian-Pilot ©

The unmanned aircraft that made history when it achieved two robotic landings aboard a moving  aircraft carrier at sea Wednesday failed in its third attempt, the Navy has confirmed.

The X-47B was diverted to shore and landed at Wallops Island flight facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

After two successful autonomous tailhook landings on the George H.W. Bush on Wednesday, the craft took off for a third attempt. During that flight, one of the three computers used for navigation on the prototype X-47B failed, Rear Adm. Mat Winter told reporters during a conference call Thursday.

The other two computers recognized the failure, and the craft responded the way it was programmed to, he said. It alerted the mission operator, who directed the craft to the nearest landing site on shore, on Wallops Island.

The drone flew out from Patuxent River, Md., on Wednesday to conduct the landing demonstrations, using specialized computer algorithms. It was supposed to stay on board for several more days for more tests.

The drone is currently at Wallops Island and will return to its home at Patuxent River Naval Air Station when weather permits, the Navy said.

A Navy spokesman said the X-47B did what it was designed to do in such a situation and that the team learned from the event.

It’s unclear whether the craft is able to fly or will be transported by land.

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