Spy Technology Takes Flight

By Daria Carmon

A new age of spy-plane technology is being ushered in, with several large technology companies unveiling and testing new plane designs. AeroVironment Inc, a company based in Monrovia, California, recently tested an experimental plane whose wingspan is almost the size of Boeing 747. The $30 million plane, called the Global Observer, uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. It is built to fly for a week at a time at an altitude of 65,000 feet, putting it out of range of most modern antiaircraft missiles. As a reconnaissance plane, it can survey nearly 280,000 square miles in one shot, making it a cheaper and more effective alternative than spy satellites. The plane is also able to relay communications between military units and spot missiles as they are launched, much like a satellite.

Not to be outdone, Northrop Grumman has built a bat-winged drone capable of carrying laser-guided bombs. The X-47B drone, developed under a contract with the US Navy, can also be launched from an aircraft carrier. These drones are not controlled remotely by a human pilot, like current combat models are. Instead, a pilot designates a flight path and launches the plane, while a computer program guides it along the path and back home.

Boeing has also developed a new spy plane – the Phantom Ray. This drone is built to slip behind enemy lines and target their radar installations, knocking out the systems to pave the way for fighter and bomber planes to enter the area.

All three of these planes, being tested at Edwards Air Force Base, represent major advances from the more than 7,000 Predator and Reaper drones that are a major player in the U.S. military’s current campaign in Afghanistan. The older drones lack jet engines and the ability to evade enemy radar, making them easy targets for antiaircraft missiles. The new remotely piloted planes have the speed and cloaking capabilities needed to avoid the missiles.

Discuss this articleDiscuss this article


Print this pagePrint this page



Posted in: Featured, Spy Gadgets


Leave a Reply

Logged in as . Logout? Leave a Reply?

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>