The Navy's new X-47B drone is getting an upgrade that'll greatly increase the distance it can fly from its aircraft carrier home base: the ability to refuel in the air.
Mid-air refueling will allow the drones to fly in perpetuity, in theory, as long as another aircraft can juice them up. Right now, a manned fighter can fly about 400 miles at a time before having to turn back, mainly because the human pilot gets tired. But a refuelable drone could have a range of 3,000 miles or more, and be able to fly for 50 to 100 hours straight, allowing them to get much farther than before.
By doing that, they'll let the aircraft carriers they call home stay farther out to sea and away from potential threats, which is as good an upside as they come.
Via Danger Room