The Boeing X-45 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) is a concept demonstrator for a next generation of completely autonomous fighter aircraft, developed by Boeing's Phantom Works (a Skunk Works-like division acquired through McDonnell Douglas).
Boeing developed the X-45 from research gathered during the development of the Bird of Prey. The X-45 features an extremely low-profile dorsal intake placed near the leading edge of the aircraft. The center fuselage is blended into swept lambda wing, with a small exhaust outlet. It has no vertical control surfaces - split ailerons near each wingtip function as asymmetric air brakes, providing rudder control, much as in Northrop's flying wings.
Removing the pilot and its associated facilities dramatically reduces the aircraft's cost. Operators may remotely command the aircraft, but the actual piloting is autonomous.
On February 4, 2005, on their 50th flight, the two X-45As took off into a patrol pattern and were then alerted to the presence of a target. The X-45As then autonomously determined which vehicle held the optimum position, weapons, and fuel load to properly attack the target. After making that decision, one of the X-45As changed course and the pilot-operator allowed it to attack the simulated antiaircraft emplacement. Following a successful strike, another simulated threat, this time disguised, emerged and was subsequently destroyed by the second X-45A. This demonstrated the ability of these vehicles to autonomously work as a team and manage their resources, as well as to fly themselves to previously-undetected targets, which is significantly harder than following a predetermined attack path.
(This text was adapted from http://www.wikipedia.org/ )(GFDL)
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