CONTEST: Reward for positively identifying this UAV



If you can definitively prove the identity of this stealthy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), I’ve got a prize for you.

I snapped this photo at the URS booth at the Air Warfare Symposium on Friday. I have showed it to a lot of people since then, and nobody is exactly sure what aircraft it is. I don’t know either. It kind of looks like X-45 and X-47, and kind of doesn’t. I was told by the URS staff that the image is a photo of a real UAV, but they didn’t know what it was either. URS operates test ranges; it doesn’t own or build UAVs. It’s possible, of course, this isn’t a real UAV at all. 

A word about the prize: It is, in my opinion, the best piece of swag handed out at the symposium last week, and will likely become a prized collector’s item in any discerning weapon system enthusiast’s closet/shoebox/etc.

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35 Responses to CONTEST: Reward for positively identifying this UAV

  1. Ed "Otto" Pernotto 21 February, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Stephen,
    Are you slipping? By typing URS and Test Facility, I came up with this much better image on their own web site:

    http://www.urscorp.com/Projects/projView.php?s=975&pn=41&sec=3

  2. AirShowFan 21 February, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    Lew Aerospace’s Inventus UAV? Probably not, but hey, if there’s a reward, I thought I’d toss a guess out there.

  3. Gravy 21 February, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Its a bae taranis

  4. Stephen Trimble 21 February, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    I think we got a winner. Any one care to argue against Taranis?

  5. Rocketist 21 February, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Look at the outer wing edges, the notable negative anhedral – or is that a more pronounced V shape? Anyway, the Taranis presented by BAE has neither. But this one has:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nautair/3007689891/#/

    It’s the Neuron.

  6. Bret 21 February, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Stephen, I made a post last night, but it seemed to not have passed moderation (is it because of the links displayed)?

    Anyways,it can be narrowed down to the X-47A Pegasus, BAE Taranis, and the Dassault Neuron. However, one key characteristic pushes the X-47A in front (it took 10 minutes of opening and closing windows to compare pictures). This is how pointed the frontal “hump” is. First, it’s important to remember the angle this was taken; it’s from below, so the top part is going to appear to be more appointed. Second, the Taranis is way to pointed at top. On the other side of the spectrum, the Neuron has to wide of a hump. This leaves the Pegasus in the middle.

    Hopefully you can find my other post which points out two other characteristics (the straight edges from the wingtips to the nose, and the rear edges of the wings).

  7. Alex Ennis 21 February, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Its a x-45c

  8. yogesh 21 February, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    I think it’s the Dassault Neuron.. especially seeing the slight droop of the leading edges in the front view..

    check this – http://www.urscorp.com/Projects/projView.php?s=975&pn=41&sec=3

    against – http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace/media/paris_air_show/images/31310/dassault-neuron-paris-air-show-2009.jpg

  9. yogesh 21 February, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I think my earlier guess was wrong.. I am guessing it’s the X-47B..

  10. Bret 21 February, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Also don’t forget to look at the wingspan. It doesn’t look like its wider than 20 feet which supports the idea that it’s the X-47A

  11. Myriad 21 February, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Looks like the Lockheed Morhping UAV. The drooping wingtips almost looks like the cross-tip elevons. The hump also seems to match the morphing UAV better.

    See the youtube video.

  12. sferrin 21 February, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    I can’t believe nobody’s guessed it. Boeing’s Phantom Ray.

  13. Grunty 21 February, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Well it’s certainly not the image on the URS website, which is a pole model of the X-47B Pegasus. Neither is it the BAES Taranis, Dassault Neuron or the X-47A Pegasus. Afraid it’s unidentifiable and is either something in the pipeline or merely a pole model design example.

  14. Sundog 21 February, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    It’s the Phantom Ray. The wingtips just appear turned down, IMHO, due to the twist at the tip.

    http://boeingblogs.com/bds/sightings/2010/05/phantom-ray.html

  15. ELP 21 February, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    It was the lead prototype test shape for this project.

    http://webworks.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834632be569e20120a5a67f39970b-800wi

  16. Grunty 21 February, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    Yeah, it may well be the Phantom Ray. It’s the angle that makes it hard to identify but the rear is exactly the same. Either that or it’s what ELP has identified, a flying stealth nun.

  17. Bret 21 February, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    It’s so hard to tell…we should all get prizes.

  18. Rocketist 21 February, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    OK, a bit of image analysis. It’s not the Taranis – the belly hump of the Taranis is much wider, see here:
    http://www.slashgear.com/bae-systems-unmanned-stealth-bomber-taranis-still-in-testing-can-think-for-itself-1293728/

    It does look a bit like the Boeing Phantom Ray, but you can see here that the engine cover of the Phantom Ray has a different shape: http://boeingblogs.com/bds/sightings/2010/05/phantom-ray.html

    I still maintain it looks most like the tailless version of the Dassault Neuron displayed at the AĆ©rosalon in 2009, and shown in this image:
    http://www.aereo.jor.br/2010/04/16/demonstrador-do-possivel-pos-rafale-e-outros-versao-ucav/ The only detail that’s baffling me is the steep sides of the engine dorsal hump.

    So come on, Stephen, I’m positive that nice Sony of yours caught more detail from that photograph!

  19. Grunty 21 February, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Not the exact angle to Stephen’s above picture, but this pic of the Phantom Ray being loaded up on the NASA Boeing 747 prior to its ferry flight last December with the inlet covered up (http://bit.ly/gOr0Qi) looks much more similar. Then there are the “drooping wingtips” on the Phantom Ray depending which angle you look at it (http://bit.ly/dXnwni). So personally I’d give Alex Ennis or Sferrin the prize. Not that I can do that.

  20. Znapel 22 February, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Is it just me, or do the wingtips look raked? (Like on the 787 and recent Boeing designs). I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s nothing we’ve seen before, but only because it was an unused prototype or design study.
    That said, wow, a lot of the current crop of UAVs are very similar looking.
    I don’t necessarily think this is the case, but don’t they often mount the pole models upside-down? If that’s the case, I say it’s an upside-down, tailless X-32! Hows that for a crazy-a$$ answer! ; P

  21. Stephen Trimble 22 February, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Hey folks — This is all great stuff. I see we have many good theories, and, alas, no definitive proof. I am strongly tilting in favor of calling this the Phantom Ray, which has deceived my eyes before. Any time you look at these Dorito-chip bombers from a different angle, they seem to look like a completely different aircraft.

    The contest called for “definitive” proof of the aircraft’s identity, but, considering the difficulty of this requirement, I’m tempted to give it to the first person who named what I think is the correct aircraft. Some may consider this subjectively unfair, but somebody’s got to win this thing, you know.

    That means the Alex Ennis, who suggested X-45C, or sferrin, who was the first to name Phantom Ray. The Phantom Ray is based largely on the X-45C, so Alex has a point, but, on the other hand, really should be considered a separate aircraft. That narrows it to sferrin! Congratulations. You’ve won, appropriately enough, a Boeing P-8 AGS promotional flask, which is by far the best swag handed out at the symposium last week. Please send me your mailing address, and I’ll ship it to you as soon as I return from Brazil.

  22. sferrin 22 February, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Sweet!

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