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X-47A Pegasus unmanned flight milestone

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February 23, 2004

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February 24, 2004 Northrop Grumman has announced details of the first flight of its experimental Pegasus unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The 12- minute flight took place at a naval airbase in California on 23 February and met all test objectives including low-speed handling, navigation performance, data collection and a pinpoint landing designed to simulate the tail-hook arrestment point on a carrier flight deck. Described as a significant milestone in autonomously controlled flight, Northrop Grumman designed and built the Pegasus X-47A with its own funds to demonstrate its low-cost unmanned vehicle management capabilities.

The Pegasus incorporates a tail-less aerodynamic design enabling autonomous launch and recovery from an aircraft carrier.

A shipboard-relative global positioning satellite system was used in the test flight as the primary navigation source.

Lessons learned from the development and testing of Pegasus will be used to support development of Northrop Grumman's naval unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV-N) program for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Navy.

Built largely with composite materials and powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5Cengine providing 3,200 pounds of thrust, Pegasus measures 8.4 metres feet long with a nearly equal wingspan of 8.3 metres.

The X-47A incorporates advanced autonomous flight control laws to account for directional control of its tailless design.

"The Pegasus program represents our commitment to significantly reduce the risk for our DARPA and Navy customers on the UCAV-N program," said Gary W. Ervin, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector vice president for Air Combat Systems.

"Regular unmanned flight operations aboard a flight deck at sea have never been attempted, and Pegasus addresses some of those key concerns".

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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