Warplanes: August 29, 2003


The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) has finally approved a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to fly in American airspace, subject to the same restrictions as piloted aircraft. In other words, able to fly just about anywhere, anytime. The RQ-4A Global Hawk has previously gotten the FAA approval for flights in all but two of the United States FAA regions. Global Hawk has already been approved for use in international airspace, as well as the national airspace of Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Denmark, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Venezuela and Ecuador. Global Hawk can be guided by ground based controllers, or take off, fly and land under control of it's own software. Global Hawk first flew in 1998 and has spent over 3,000 hours in the air, including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three of the seven Global Hawks built so far have been lost, all to accidents. The RQ-4A weighs 12 tons and normally flies above commercial traffic (about 60,000 feet). Each UAV costs about $35 million and can stay in the air for 40 hours while traveling at some 640 kilometers an hour. A one tone payload is carried, which includes satellite radio equipment and other gear which allows a Global Hawk to respond, via its ground controllers, to queries and instructions from air traffic controllers. 


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