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Published on Jun 12, 2012
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. - The mysterious truck load hundreds of people saw over the weekend was a X-47B tailless strike fighter-sized unmanned aircraft. It's one of two that exist in the U.S and was on it's way to Maryland for more tests.
WCIA 3 News was flooded with calls and comments on its Facebook page about the interesting load. It was parked at the rest stop near Pesotum on I-57 headed North on Saturday. Some people thought it was a flying saucer, but it's actually a top notch aircraft.
In 2007 Northrop Grumman won a contract to design two X-47B aircraft. It's part of the U.S. Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program.
They will be the first of its kind to, "land on and be launched from the flight deck of a Navy aircraft carrier underway at sea."
The company's website said the drones will also demonstrate, "unmanned jet-powered aviation: autonomous carrier operations - including launch, recovery, and deck handling - and autonomous aerial refueling using both the U.S. Air Force 'boom-receptacle' and Navy 'probe and drogue' methods."
The reason why the remote controlled aircraft looked the way it did is because crews had removed the wings. The company said it's easier to travel at night to avoid traffic and keep the load safe.
The one people saw in Central Illinois, which is the second aircraft, was on it's way to Maryland's Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It just left Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.
They tested the aircraft for the first time in 2011. In 2013 they plan to test them on the carriers, and in 2014, mid-air refueling.