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(MSgt Scott Reed)

A Brief History of Unmanned Aircraft

From bomb-bearing balloons to the Global Hawk.

RQ-4 Global Hawk

None
(Department of Defense)

Soaring even higher than the Predator—which the military considers a medium altitude UAV—the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long endurance aircraft with performance and sensor capabilities so impressive it’s scary. Born out of a 1995 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) request, the Global Hawk can fly more than 32 hours at a stretch and loiter at altitudes as high as 65,000 feet, with a suite of sensors that can see through clouds, dense fog, haze, and dust storms. Thanks to a data transmission rate dozens of times faster than a T1 line, operators can view very high resolution imagery of wide swaths of the ground below.

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