NASA Turns Two Unmanned Warplanes Into Environmental Scouts


Photo: U.S. Air Force, Public domain

I Can See My House From Up Here!

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is quite an impressive piece of hardware. It can stay in the air for more than a day, has a range of 3,400 miles, and at very high altitude (its record is 19,928 meters (65,380.6 ft)). Usually it's the military that would have control over these UAVs, but two Global Hawks have been turned over to NASA for environmental research flights .

unmanned military drone photo

Photo: U.S. Military

Spying on Nature

U2 spy planes have been used for science in the past, but UAVs seem to be a better choice; you're not putting a pilot in danger, and because of the lower weight, you need less fuel. It probably ends up being a lot less expensive.

Discovery News writes:

NASA plans to use a specially outfitted Global Hawk aircraft to verify measurements of atmospheric gases taken by the AURA satellite, one of 15 NASA spacecraft now monitoring Earth.

"Once you launch a satellite, of course you don't get it back, so you have to go and make co-incident measurements with it so you know If your satellite is making the proper observations," [Paul Newman, an atmospheric scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center,] said.

NASA is said to be interested in climate research. The first scientific flight of the Global Hawks should take place in January.

global hawk unmanned UAV photo

Via Discovery News

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