Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy have trialled a new handheld device that allows deck operators to maneuver the X-47B unmanned aircraft wirelessly around the deck of an aircraft carrier. This Control Display Unit (CDU) can remotely control the aircraft’s engine thrust, roll the aircraft forward, brake and stop, and carry out tight turns. Daryl Martis, Northrop Grumman’s UCAS-D test director, said:
The CDU is fundamental to integrating the X-47B seamlessly into carrier deck operations. It will allow us to move the aircraft quickly and precisely into the catapult for launch, or out of the landing area following recovery. Both of these activities are essential to maintaining the rhythm of the flight deck. Instead of towing the aircraft out to the flight line, we can now start the X-47B outside its hangar, then use the CDU to taxi it out to the runway, or into a catapult for launch. Use of the CDU is the most time-efficient way to move the X-47B into the catapult or disengage it from the arresting gear after landing.
Next year, the program plans to demonstrate that the X-47B can safely operate from a Navy aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery, and air traffic control operations.