Once again, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B is facing an identity crisis. It seems that whenever one of the unmanned planes gets strapped to the back of a flatbed truck and shipped across the country people driving along highways confuse it with a UFO and freak out. Last time, it was a scare in Kansas; this time, it was the Capital Beltway while en route to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
To prevent a War of the Worlds style panic, here’s a cheat sheet to help everyone keep things straight.
This is a UFO:
And this is an X-47B:
And a UFO takes these guys and their ilk from planet to planet:
And an X-47B takes these guys:
Since the UAV was spotted in the area sometime Wednesday night it’s gotten pretty good attention from both local and national news outlets. Drudge Report made the story its lead headline with “DRONE CAUSES ‘UFO’ PANIC ON DC BELTWAY.” In December there was a similar hullabaloo in Kansas when another X-47B was being shipped to Pax River.
The X-47B will spend the summer flying at Pax River for Naval Air Systems Command and will be a part of a series of tests to make sure the planes can seamlessly integrate onto an aircraft carrier. If everything works out like everyone involved hopes it could eventually become the first full-sized unmanned aircraft on a carrier.
And after that, it will return to its home planet.