A retired F-16 converted into a drone flew without a pilot this week. The retrofitted jet by Boeing was recently tested at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base, and glided at an agile speed of 40,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico before landing safely. The unmanned jet was, however, remotely controlled by two Air Force test pilots.
This is the first time the converted drone has been flown without a pilot, which expands new areas for development in military technology. Now that the jet has completed its flight testing, it will be used for aerial training missions and target practice.
Watch this powerful unmanned jet land:
Boeing test pilot Jason Clements states, "To get something ready to take off on its own so somebody else can shoot it down makes it a little bittersweet."
According to the Daily Mail, the F-16 is renamed to QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target. The purpose of the reconstructed aircraft is to provide U.S. fighter pilots with a realistic adversary for training purposes. Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Inman comments that "Now we have a mission-capable, highly sustainable, full-scale aerial target to take us into the future."
The plane is impressively versatile, carrying out a series of simulated maneuvers and independently landing. There are ethical issues relating to the deployment of drones in battle, but as of right now, this Boeing experiment is viewed as an improvement in military technology.