Northrop Grumman recorded almost 9,000 miles of flight to showcase the operational flexibility of an optionally-manned autonomous aircraft designed for medium-altitude, long-endurance missions.
Northrop said Tuesday the Firebird aircraft flew over and stopped by Dayton, Ohio; Washington DC; Patuxent River, Maryland; and Tampa, Miami and Key West, Florida, demonstrating both manned and unmanned flight, as well as the transition in between.
Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager for autonomous systems at Northrop Grumman, said Firebird exhibited its transition from a manned aircraft into an autonomous system for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
“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," Bishop added.
Firebird completed its trip in Key West, Florida, where the aircraft underwent maritime scenario testing with electro-optical/infrared sensors.
Northrop also designed Firebird to allow for 30-minute payload swapping and one-day payload installations for mission flexibility.