A Manassas, Virginia firm is creating a small plane with no pilot on-board. And no human joystick jockey in a remote SCIF either. With Air Force funding, multiple mission options for "Excalibur" are still being explored. But one of them includes serving as a shuttle for one troop: injured for evacuation, or healthy for insertion.
If adopted, the implications for fuel requirements are huge, but also highly uncertain. Would Excalibur help keep larger planes and helicopters on the ground thereby saving tons of fuel? Or would it be a supplement to (or replacement for) what we have already ... like substituting a commuter car for public transportation? What'll be the net energy impact? Inquiring folks should keep an eye on this.
Photo courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences