New stealth bomber can fly pilotless

It marks a radical departure for unmanned aircraft, which required a ground-based human pilot to guide them on missions.  The X-47B can carry out pre-programmed missions autonomously, with a computer handling everything from take off, landing and even mid-air refuelling.

It is also the first drone said to be capable of launching from and landing on a sea- borne aircraft carrier, the Daily Mail reports.  Defence firm Northrop Grumman, which was awarded the US Navy contract to build the plane in August 2007, is expected to start carrier trials for the drone in 2013.

Slightly smaller than the B2 stealth bomber, the X-47B carries laser-guided bombs and can fly faster than 500 miles per hour at 40,000 feet.  The first aircraft will complete its initial testing in late 2011, with a second aircraft due to begin testing shortly thereafter.

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