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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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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
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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
DarkGray

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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