The US Navy recently completed the world’s first successful in-flight refuelling of a drone, the X-47B.
On 22nd April, off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia in the United States, an Omega K-707 refuelling tanker delivered 1.8 metric tons (4,000 lbs) of kerosene via a boom to a prototype stealth drone, developed by Northrop Grumman, the X-47B.
By succeeding in this highly delicate manoeuvre, an important step toward autonomy and flexibility in the use of military drones has been undertaken. Captain Beau Duarte, head of the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation Programme, asserts that this test shows that "drones are capable of performing standard tasks such as in-flight refuelling, and of operating together with manned aircraft as part of an air wing."
Eventually, the US Navy hopes to be able to operate this UAV from its carriers for intelligence missions lasting several hours.