Northrop Grumman Firebird UAV lets pilots ride too

Northrop Grumman's Firebird can be flown manned or unmanned, which may allow it to use civil airspace.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has unveiled a long-endurance unmanned spy plane which, in addition to surveillance gear, can carry pilots, potentially allowing it to fly in civil airspace.

The Firebird performed its first flight in February 2010. It can fly up to 30,000 feet and has an endurance of up to 40 hours in unmanned mode. It has a payload of 1,240 pounds and a wingspan of 65 feet.

It has high-def video, electro-optical and infrared sensors as well as synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) systems. There are two weapons points on the wings.

Northrop's Scaled Composites designed the aircraft, which has an interface like a memory stick in that it can be plugged into a PC without the need of additional software.

Firebird will be demoed May 23 - June 3, 2011 at Empire Challenge 2011, held by U.S. Joint Forces Command in Arizona. If you can't make it, there's a promo video here.

About the author

Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.


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