The switch between the two can be performed according to the company behind this winged machine in under two hours.
In an attempt to prove the thing’s prowess, Northrop Grumman just ended last month an aerial tour of the United States with a crewed Firebird. The plane traveled for about 9,000 miles (14,480 km), zigzagging across the nation’s states and performing a number of stops, until it came to a halt in Key West, Florida.
Once there, the Firebird was used to perform a number of operations that involved the use of high-definition EO/IR sensors, multi-spectral sensors, and an AIS receiver.
“Our flights showcased one of its key differentiators – the ability to position the system in a manned configuration, then convert to autonomous operations for persistent ISR in under two hours,” said in a statement Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman.
“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.”
The Firebird first flew about a decade ago. It’s main role is to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and it can do so for 30 hours at a time, and from an altitude of 25,000 feet (7.6 km).
According to its maker, the type of sensors required for its missions can be swapped in just 30 minutes.