Navy Drone Completes First Unmanned Carrier Landing, Heads for Retirement

The X-47B aircraft lands on the deck of the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, a first for unmanned vehicles.

Bolding going where no drone had gone before, the U.S. Navy’s X-47B completed a historic unmanned aerial vehicle landing on an aircraft carrier Wednesday.


With a wingspan of 62 feet, range of more than 2,000 nautical miles and ability to travel at subsonic speeds 40,000 feet above sea level, the Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System landed on the deck of the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia, a first for unmanned vehicles.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called the moment “a glimpse of the future.”

Today, those of us aboard USS George H.W. Bush got that chance as we witnessed the X-47B make its first-ever arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier.

The Navy’s X-47B program, which includes two aircrafts, has cost the government $1.4 billion. With the program winding down, the two aircrafts will be demilitarized and head to the Navy museum after this week.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.