Northrop Grumman X-47

Today’s “robot planes” are pilotless, not autonomous; a joystick-equipped human on the ground still does the flying. Northrop Grumman’s X-47B will be the first aircraft to handle all maneuvers, including aerial refuelings and aircraft-carrier landings, with no human assistance. The tailless, fighter-sized jet, which flew for the first time in February, makes decisions using 3.4 million lines of onboard code, which the company refined using 10,000 hours of simulated flight time. The X-47B is scheduled to demonstrate takeoffs and landings from an aircraft-carrier deck by 2013.