Yesterday, under the clear blue sky, the U.S. Navy did something remarkable: it launched a drone from an aircraft carrier. While it may come as a surprise in the age of unmanned air strikes that this milestone had yet to be reached, it is nonetheless an accomplishment.
The drone in question is a Northrop Grumman X-47B, and it was launched from the deck of the George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier. It's a good thing that the launch went as smoothly as it did, because the drone that was slung from the carrier's deck is one of only two in existence. And each costs nearly a billion dollars.
With the precious nature of the X-47B in mind, it's easy to understand why the Navy didn't attempt to land the drone on the carrier right away. The X-47B, once airborne, was under the control of a human "pilot" who guided the aircraft to a traditional landing strip on land. Further tests will need to be run to see how well the drone lands on a short, moving runway. To see the test as it happened, check out the video below.