"Beltway UFO" has DC Talking

Reports: It's a drone headed to NAS Patuxent

By Thomas Tobin and Carissa DiMargo
|  Thursday, Jun 14, 2012  |  Updated 9:27 AM EDT
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Beltway traffic is bad enough without adding extraterrestrial vehicles into the mix.

On Wednesday night, Facebook and Twitter users went wild over sightings of a saucer-shaped vessel being towed on local highways. The buzz called to mind the frenzy in 1947 Roswell, albeit in a much more modern way.

Drivers spotted the craft on I-270 and on the Beltway as it was pulled behind a tractor trailer.

But we can take the "unidentified" out of "unidentified flying object." (And yes, we realize that it wasn't actually flying, either.) The military has confirmed to News4 that the 82-foot-long craft is an unmanned military aircraft, known as an X-47B drone.

Maryland State Police towed it on a flatbed trailer from Garrett County, Md., to Naval Air Station Patuxent River -- but even they didn't know what it was at the time, police said.

The drone was towed by a series of vehicles all the way from California -- and yes, it "always attracts attention," a military spokesperson told NBC4's Melissa Mollet.

The craft is the second of its kind to come to the area. An  X-47B arrived in late 2011... although if they towed that one on the Beltway, no one must have noticed.

"In the coming months, you can expect to see the X-47B flying over the base and surrounding area along the Chesapeake Bay," said Matt Funk, lead test engineer.

According to a military press release:

The X-47B is the first unmanned vehicle designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. As part of the program's demonstration, the X-47B will perform arrested landings and catapult launches at Pax to validate its ability to conduct precision approaches to the carrier. The base is one of only a few sites in the world where the Navy can run performance tests on aircraft-carrier catapult operations at a land-based facility with flight test and engineering support resources not available on a ship.

The military is also cautioning people who may see the drones flying around in coming months -- be careful and pay attention to the road if you're driving when you see them!

"Don't worry, that's not an alien spacecraft, just a flying military robot. [That was a] totally normal sentence in 2012. I love the future," area resident Ben Jacobs tweeted Wednesday night.

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