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Boeing Phantom Ray UCAS Makes First Flight

Boeing’s unmanned fighter jet took to the air for the first time late last month, and Boeing’s got big plans for it

1 min read
Boeing Phantom Ray UCAS Makes First Flight

It was barely two months ago that Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) made its first autonomous flight. On April 27, Boeing’s Phantom Ray followed suit on its first flight, maneuvering at 7,500 feet at speeds of over 175 knots. The test flight, which lasted just under 20 minutes, was followed by a perfect autonomous landing.

Obviously, this is just the first little taste of what the Phantom Ray is capable of. Its operational top speed is about 0.85 Mach, with a range of nearly 2,500 km. Further testing will explore the capabilites of the UCAS for “supporting missions that may include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; hunter/killer; and autonomous aerial refueling.”

It’s worth mentioning that unlike the Northrop Grumman X-47B, the Phantom Ray is entirely Boeing’s project. Northrop Grumman won DARPA’s UCAS program, and the X-47B is being developed specifically for the US Navy. Even though Boeing’s X-45 didn’t get selected, Boeing decided not to just let the X-45 die off, and so they adapted it into the Phantom Ray instead. Just what exactly is going to happen to the program is anyone’s guess; the possibilities range from keeping it as a testbed to turning it into a production prototype that’s ready for deployment. And you know what that would mean... Sometime, somewhere, someone is going to get an X-47B and a Phantom Ray in the same piece of sky and just let them go at it, Top Gun style.

[ Press Release ] via [ Defense Tech ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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