X-47B UCAV drone decided to abort landing attempt on aircraft carrier on its own without human intervention

As we described it earlier, a new era in carrier based aviation has started when the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first-ever carrier-based arrested landing on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Noteworthy, after completing a second autonomous arrested landing on the carrier, a third landing was aborted as the X-47B self-detected a navigation computer anomaly and diverted to a landing field.

According to the Navy, the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) was about four miles aft of the ship, with arrestor hook and landing gear down, when one of its health check on its subsystems revealed a computer anomaly.

Hence it decided, without any human intervention, to wave off (meaning to abort the landing attempt), flew past the carrier and reported the problem to the remote controllers who directed it to a shore landing airfield.

X-47B arrestor hook

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Two things are worth a mention.

First, the new U.S. Navy’s killer drone detected a problem and made the proper decision before the humans discovered it, improving the mission safety.

Second, what if the drone had autonomously made the wrong decision?

Jacek Siminski has contributed to this post

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Third, what if it’s happening in the middle of the Pacific and there is no landing field around?

  2. Another consideration: would a human pilot have continued on & overcome difficulties through shear determination?

  3. Oh fine…As a retired Naval fighter pilot with 840 arrested landings, and retired airline captain, taking your own wave off is an egregious breach of naval ship landing S.O.P.. Now we having “George” doing it. What’s the world coming to?? Before your readers get incensed that is simply a bit go dry humor.

    • I call bullshit. Go arounds are free. Always have been, always will be. You mean to tell me you won’t go around unless the LSO says so if you have an unsafe gear indication? Or observe an aviation bosuns mate in the landing area before the platform does? You take a bad hit from the burble in close but you’re going to ride it right in to the fantail? Bull fucking shit Thumper.

      Anyway. The aircraft did exactly what it was programmed to do: fly a set of parameters and execute abort logic in the event of a redundant avionics system failure. The guys controlling the aircraft elected to cancel the rest of the card and take the jet back to the beach.

      It’s a test program knucklehead. There are contingencies. Notice the only other things flying are safety pilots in Hornets flying chase?

      You don’t know jack or shit and jack just left town.

      • I call tortoise poo. Reach arounds are free. Always have been, always will be. You mean to tell me you won’t reach around unless the hummer-moustache-ride-lance-corporal-captain says “wha?” Or observe a beach bunny in the landing area before the platform does? You take a bad toke off the hippeh-pipe but you’re going to feel around the fanny for some feeblejuice? That’s just not on! It’s not on and you made my day!

        So. The aircraft programmed my brain just as was meant: make those parameters abort the logic my redundant avionics-system-failure false-brake canard! God said take a fuckin day at the beach. So I had a clam bake. Werner whatsit foo-schnickel?

        It’s a knucklehead, test program. Contingencies abound. Notice the only other things flying are hornet butt boys that have SR-71 envy? Noted, worm licker.

        You don’t know jack or shit and monterrey jack shredded.

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