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X-47B Gets Two More Years of Tests to Prep Navy for Robot Warplanes

Instead of heading to museums, the U.S. combat drones will resume testing on aircraft carriers

1 min read
X-47B Gets Two More Years of Tests to Prep Navy for Robot Warplanes

Last month, Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air thingy (Vehicle or System, take your pick) did a mostly excellent job at autonomously taking off from, and more importantly landing on, an aircraft carrier. Once everything was shown to work, the U.S. Navy was like, "awesome job, now never fly those things again," and the two X-47Bs were slated for permanent museum display. Fortunately for fans of big, expensive, scary-looking flying robots, the Navy has just changed its mind.

The Navy is now planning to deploy the drones to aircraft carriers three more times over the next two years. The first deployment should happen by the end of this year (so, very soon), followed by a second deployment about a year from now, and a final one from late 2014 until early 2015.

From the sound of things, that last deployment is going to be the most exciting one. The X-47B will "fully integrate with a 70-plane carrier air wing for several weeks," to (hopefully) show that robots can seamlessly work with manned aircraft in carrier operations. We'll also get to see the first aerial refueling operation, although we're not nearly as worried about that.

In addition to testing out the robotic aircraft more thoroughly, these deployments will also serve to prepare the aircraft carriers themselves for routine drone operations. And in many ways, that's the biggest hurdle that the X-47B has to fly over: getting humans comfortable with having sophisticated and potentially armed robots flying around on their own.

Via [ WarIsBoring ]

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How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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