The Next Wave of Aerial Surveillance

aerial surveillance x 47 b
April 1, 2016  |  

When Northrop Grumman designs their latest aerial surveillance craft, they need very specific parts. Looking to find a custom rotary union, naturally, they came to Rotary Systems. They wanted a rotary union capable of providing coolant for their latest autonomous aircraft. These two tailless strike-fighter sized unmanned aircraft are known as the X-47B 1 & 2. These air crafts function as part of the US Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The X-47B functions as an autonomous carrier-based unmanned aircraft. What is the main objective? Launch and recovery within 50 nautical miles off base as well as aerial refueling.

The first aircraft of its kind, it will land and launch under the most challenging of environments: aboard an active naval vessel. Now, we’re experiencing the next wave of aerial surveillance, firsthand.

Design Phase

With this unique project, Rotary System’s engineers had to design a custom rotary union — no problem! However, in this situation, there are a number of demanding specifications. Because of its location inside of the aircraft, we are dealing with tight quarters. The rotary union needs to fit inside of a small confined space and produce absolutely zero leakage. Taking this into account, various weight requirements need to be met, as well. Overall, along with requirements for low turning torque and flow requirements with minimal pressure drops, our team of engineers was enthusiastic about the project. It was not an easy task, but we have met with success! Subsequently, the union has passed all of its tests. Now, we’re looking forward to seeing the X-47B aircraft trials continue aboard various US Navy vessels, including the USS Harry S. Trumann (CVN 75).

Every day, Rotary Systems is works with a number of Defense Companies on several active projects for military applications.

Solving problems like this is the core of Rotary Systems’ operations. Altogether, our engineers have a combined 80 years of experience. We’re constantly improving our techniques in designing custom rotary unions — for any industry. See what Rotary Systems can do for you. Contact an applications engineer at or call 800.959.0146. See what Rotary Systems can do for you. Turn your most challenging design specifications into an affordable custom solution, today.