Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New spy plane can be drone or flown by pilot

New spy plane can be drone or flown by pilot

Northrop Grumman Corp. on Monday introduced a spy plane that can be used as a drone or with a pilot onboard.

The company says its Firebird intelligence-gathering system will allow users to gather and transmit high-definition video, infrared video, radar and listen in on communications at the same time.

"Firebird is an adaptable system that makes it highly affordable because of the number of different missions it can accomplish during a single flight. It's a real game changer," Rick Crooks, Northrop Grumman's Firebird program manager, said in a press release.

Northrop designed the Firebird's intelligence gathering systems while Scaled Composites, founded by experimental aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, designed and built the aircraft. Northrop said the aircraft went from concept to flight test in a year.

The propeller-powered aircraft can fly up to 30,000 feet, with an endurance time as long as 40 hours, Northrop said.

Northrop will demonstrate the Firebird for the military's Joint Forces Command during the Empire Challenge 2011 exercises beginning May 23, the company said.