U.S. sending Global Hawk drone to Japan

The unmanned aerial vehicle will be used to help assess damage to towns and industrial facilities. One report says the drone might survey the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tim Hornyak
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.
Tim Hornyak
An RQ-4 Global Hawk, a reconnaissance drone, will be used to help survey damage to towns and industrial facilities in Japan. U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson

U.S. Pacific Air Forces is sending an unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance drone to Japan to help authorities understand the scope of damage from last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.

Kyodo News reported that a Japanese government source said the high-altitude drone may be deployed Thursday to take a closer look at the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where workers are trying to prevent a full-scale meltdown.

Images taken by the RQ-4 Global Hawk based at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam may provide a better picture of what's happening at the plant's reactors, which have emitted high levels of radiation.

Pacific Air Forces said the UAV will survey towns and industrial facilities. It did not mention the nuclear plant, but added that a U-2 reconnaissance plane is also being used to provide imagery for relief efforts.

Capable of flying for 30 hours, the Global Hawk was also used in relief efforts after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010.