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US Navy tests aircraft piloted by artificial intelligence

Press Trust of India  |  London 

In case the futuristic killer drone completes all its sea trials then it will be first aircraft capable of autonomously landing onto an aircraft carrier.

The X-47B drone is designed to take off, fly a pre-programmed mission then return to base in response to a few mouse clicks from its operator, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

Regarded as the US military's latest robot weapon, the aircraft comes amid fears that the handing over of warfare to artificial intelligence could lead to disastrous unforeseen consequences.

The difference between the X-47B and a manned drone is that it will not be driven movement by movement by a remote - like a remote control car.

Instead, it will be controlled by a forearm-mounted box called the Control Display Unit which can independently think for itself, plotting course corrections and charting new directions.

The unmanned drone will be set an objective by a human operator, for example a target to look at, and it will fly there using technology such as Global Positioning System (GPS), autopilot and collision avoidance sensors.

Contractors hoisted the test prototype of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System on to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in preparation for its first carrier-based testing.

A team from the US Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System program office also embarked on the carrier to oversee the tests and demonstrations.

It is hoped that the X-47B, which boasts a wingspan of more than 62 feet, will demonstrate seamless integration into carrier flight deck operations through various tests.

The size of a jet fighter, yet without a tail fin, the stealth drone is produced by Northrop Grumman, which also produces the similar, except larger and manned, B-2 Stealth Bomber, the report said.

The aircraft caused a stir over the summer when it was mistaken for a genuine UFO as it was transported through Washington DC on its way for tests at a navy airbase.

It is not yet clear whether the drone will be able to open fire without explicit authorisation from its controller.

First Published: Fri, November 30 2012. 15:45 IST