The US Navy is preparing to conduct the first test flight of its X-47B Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in November 2009.

The Northrop Grumman-built batwing, tailless and pilotless X-47B is designed for aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting and can be remotely operated over aircraft carriers.

The unmanned combat air system is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at an altitude of 40,000ft carrying an internal load of 4,500lb with a combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles.

Northrop Grumman UCAS programme team lead Tim Beard said that after spending six to eight months of aviation at Edwards’ base the aircraft will fly to Naval Air Station Patuxent Riverin Maryland for testing and flights through November 2011.

“The supplemental testing will be at Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Northrop is planning to put the aircraft aboard a carrier at the Norfolk, Virginia, naval base,” Beard added.

The aircraft is scheduled to start its sea trials in 2011.