London: A new intelligence and surveillance aircraft that falls into the category of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) with its ability to be flown robotically or with a human pilot on board was unveiled recently.
It is claimed that the Firebird will allow the US military to simultaneously gather real-time high-definition video, view infrared imagery, use radar and eavesdrop on communications, reports the Daily Mail.
Incredibly, it has an interface like a memory stick that can be plugged into a PC without the need for additional software.
Measuring 34ft-long and 9.7ft-high, the twin-tailed plane can reach a maximum altitude of 30,000ft and has a maximum flying time of between 24 and 40 hours, depending on its configuration.
Its wing span is 65ft and it has a pushed-propeller at the rear of its fuselage.
The Firebird, which performed its first flight in February 2010, was designed and built in California`s Mojave Desert by Scaled Composites and unveiled yesterday by U.S. aero defence firm Northrop Grumman.
The aircraft was designed with the certainty of cuts in U.S. defence spending in mind.
“Firebird addresses future budgetary constraints by combining the best of our piloted and unmanned systems,” said Paul Meyer, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman.
Rick Crooks, Firebird program manager, described it as an adaptable system that is highly affordable because of the number of different missions that can be accomplished in a single flight.
The Firebird will be demonstrated in public from May 23 to June 3. It is currently unclear how much it will cost.