Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) has performed a flight tour across various locations in the United States with its Firebird multi-sensor UAS (unmanned aerial system) in order to showcase the versatility of the optionally-manned autonomous system. The ability of the aircraft to be flown manned through national airspace is a demonstration of its unique operational flexibility for self-deployment and its rapid relocation ability to adapt to specific user needs and operational requirements.
Firebird is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS that is designed for flexibility and affordability. Users can install new payloads in as little as one day, and swap payloads in 30 minutes, making the system ideal for a variety of domains and missions.
NGC flew Firebird almost 9,000 miles around the US, with stops in Dayton, Ohio; Washington DC; Patuxent River, Maryland; as well as Tampa, Miami and Key West, Florida. After the final stop, the team conducted a series of manned maritime operational events that included a four-sensor package containing two high-definition EO/IR sensors, a maritime configured multi-spectral sensor for small target detection, and an AIS receiver.
Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager of autonomous systems at Northrop Grumman, commented: “Our flights showcased one of its key differentiators – the ability to position the system in a manned configuration, then convert to autonomous operations for persistent ISR in under two hours. At each stop, plane-side briefings provided customers the opportunity to see first-hand the operational versatility of the platform, its large sensor bay, and rapid configurability for changing mission needs.”