New "Firebird" Aircraft Unveiled - NBC 7 San Diego

New "Firebird" Aircraft Unveiled



    New "Firebird" Aircraft Unveiled

    Defense Contractor Northrop Grumman unveiled a new aircraft Monday that they believe will be a "game changer" for US intelligence gathering.

    The "Firebird" was developed and built in the North County and right now, there's only one in existence.

    That said, Northrop Grumman hopes to make many more if the government likes what it sees.

    What's to like?

    New "Firebird" Aircraft Unveiled

    [DGO] New "Firebird" Aircraft Unveiled
    Defense Contractor Northrop Grumman believes it will be a "game changer" for US intelligence gathering.
    (Published Monday, May 9, 2011)

    For starters the aircraft can operate as an unmanned drone or a piloted aircraft, making it the first of its kind to be able to do that, according to its builders.

    Military users would be able to switch between the two versions fairly easily providing flexibility between missions.

    The spy plane, which resembles a giant dragonfly, is also able to operate up to four hi-tech sensors at the same time -- such as listening to phone conversations, sending back live high definition pictures and radar just to name a few.

    Northrop Grumman says most drones can operate only two sensors at a time, and often several planes are needed to accomplish all of the military priorities that could be handled by this one aircraft.

    In a dynamic environment, the biggest challenge for the defense contractor is coming up with something that can easily adapt to new sensors as the technology improves.

    They think they've found the answer in the Firebird.

    "Not unlike when you go on the Internet and surf Google, you get all these hits, you have no idea where the information all came from, but it's all there.  It just appears, so the whole concept is to make it that easy for a user to pull that kind of information off the airplane," said Northrop Grumman spokesperson Rick Crooks.

    The Rancho Bernardo developers say this idea is 10 years in the making. They've been quietly flying the plane in the Mojave Dessert since February of last year, but are finally ready to test it out for the military at the end of the month.