The U.S Navy has successfully tested communication software for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) to demonstrate the ability of the autonomous X47-B unmanned air vehicle (UAV) to launch from and land safely on an aircraft carrier.
The flight test was conducted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman during its sea trials, July 7-10.
"We are one of the first aircraft carriers in the fleet to have Navy UCAS-D equipment installed on board," said Lt. Cmdr. Chad Young, Truman's assistant air operations officer. "Its purpose is to communicate with the UCAS-D flight software on their unmanned aircraft".
The tests aboard Truman ensured shipboard UCAS-D software was interfacing properly with the unmanned aircraft's software using a surrogate aircraft, which was a contracted King Air.
The software on board the King Air, an aircraft that is comparable to the Navy's C-12 Huron, was modified to include an accurate representation of X-47B on-board systems.
In June 2011, UCAS-D was tested aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) using an F/A-18D Hornet.
"We're refining the system," said Lt. James Reynolds, UCAS-D surrogate project officer with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 of NAS Patuxent River. "During last year's tests on Ike, we found minor interfacing issues with the in-flight software aboard the Hornet, and have modified that software to be more similar to the software in the X-47B. The King Air has more room on board compared to the Hornet, so we were able to include a better model of UAV software and more accurately test the software".
The NAVAIR team also tested shipboard UCAS-D software integration with Truman's Carrier Air-Traffic Control Center and primary flight control, said Reynolds.
"The testing went well," said Reynolds. "We accomplished all of our objectives and it was a very successful detachment. [The UAV] is certainly much closer to ready for prime time than it has been in the past".