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"It's unusual to see a shrink-wrapped aircraft."
The residents of Crowley County, Kansas, watched with their jaws dropped last week as a flatbed truck with what appeared to be an alien spacecraft -- it was flat, disc-shaped and covered -- rolled down U.S. Highway 77.
At the time, a local news report with footage of the foreign looking object said that Northrop Grumman has laid claim to owning whatever was on the truck but it wasn't identified specifically at the time. Now, Northrop Grumman's senior public relations manager, Brooks McKinney, has revealed the identity of what some claimed was a "UFO."
"We built two for the Navy, they were being tested at Edwards Air Force Base [in California] since March," McKinney said. "One is on its way to Maryland, and the other will remain in California." He took the UFO speculation in good humor, though, and understood the curiosity: "Clearly people are interested in what's going through town. It's unusual to see a shrink-wrapped aircraft, especially one with that shape."
The reason it wasn't simply flown across the country is deceptively simple: "It's difficult to fly an unmanned drone through commercial airspace," McKinney explained. Piloted aircraft are one thing, but long trips for large aircraft without a human pilot on board are frowned upon for both aviation security reasons and practical concerns.
Since the local news footage appeared last week on YouTube, the video has gotten more than 1 million hits. Take a look:
Northr0p Grumman's website states the X-47B will be used in 2013 to demonstrate "the first carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, low-observable-relevant unmanned aircraft." In 2014, it will demonstrate autonomous aerial refueling.
You can learn more about the X-47B by reading past Blaze stories on the drone.
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