This Drone Notion Is Starting to Get Serious

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This looks, and sounds, like the first U.S. military drone to, well, look and sound like a warplane.

It was only two days ago that Battleland posted a photo of the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System demonstrator “landing” gently on the flight deck of the USS Harry S Truman – with help from a crane.

Meanwhile, back on land, this video of a second Northrop Grumman aircraft shows its first-ever catapult launch Thursday at the Navy test center at Pax River, Md. That’s a steam-powered kick-in-the-pants to power a warplane off a relatively short carrier deck.

It’s something drones will have to do if they’re ever to play a key role in naval aviation (the new Ford class of carriers is planning to use electromagnetic power instead of steam to deliver the kick).

Unlike most earlier drones, with their piddling engines and propellers, the jet-powered X-47B looks – and sounds, thanks to its Pratt & Whitney F-16 engine – like a real warplane.