The Navy's New Spy Drone Will Drastically Change How The US Watches The Oceans [Presentation]


Photo: Northrop Grumman

The U.S. Navy has its sight set on this new drone that was recently unveiled by defence company partner Northrop Grumman.They’ve been working on the MQ-C4 Triton over the last several years, and it’s now ready for test flights. 

See what the drone offers >

With 360-degree scanning capability and an Automatic Identification System — meaning it can classify different types of ships by itself — the MQ-C4 is pegged to be the mainstay of the Navy’s spying capabilities at sea from 2015 onwards.

But even without its state-of-the-art sensors and cameras, the aircraft itself is capable. It can fly for over a day at twice the altitude of commercial jets, reaching a maximum height of 60,000 feet (11 miles) overhead.

And Popular Mechanics explains that the drone is “vertically agile”, so it won’t have a problem quickly swooping down from high altitudes to take pictures of ships.

Apart from being used for combat-related surveillance missions, the drone could also keep tabs on piracy, human smuggling, fishery violations, and organised crime. Essentially, it’s all-seeing.

Here’s a break-down of the new drone and how it’ll give the Navy even more control of the high seas.

Here's what the U.S. is watching. These are the 5 main operating bases where the MQ-4C fleet will be used, networking with other Navy and Air Force drones — notice the South China Sea region is under watch

Along with its 360-degree scanning, it can capture images or full motion video at high resolution

And its sensor systems* can detect and automatically classify different targets at sea or along coastlines

Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS)

Maritime Radar, Electro-Optical / Infrared (EO/IR) sensor

Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver

Electronic Support Measures (ESM)

With a Rolls-Royce engine, bird-strike resistant wings and a slew of other payloads, the whole aircraft weighs 32,250 pounds — here's what it's carrying

The Navy could fly the all-seeing MQ-C4 like a big brother over strike fighters — like the F-35 — heading into combat. The surveillance drone would keep everyone in the loop

Here's how pieces of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program operate together, with the MQ-C4 front and centre

This is how it compares in size to other well-known aircraft — it's got a generous wingspan of 131 feet and a height of over 15 feet. The drone will last about 6 years before needing a new airframe*

*the mechanical structure of an aircraft, not including its engine.

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