The U.S. military is seeking at least $3.4 billion for unmanned aircraft to meet
increasing demands in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of the systems include:
- Global Hawk: The military's prime eye-in-the-sky provides high-altitude,
high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in near
Once programmed, it can taxi, take off, fly, capture
images and return on its own, while ground-based operators monitor its
progress or, if needed, change its course. It has a wingspan of
about 116 feet, and can fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet. The prime
contractor is Northrop Grumman's Ryan Aeronautical Center in
- Predator: Currently, the military's main
hunter-killer system, the Predator is equipped with cameras, sensors and radar
that can capture video and still images. It also has a targeting
system and can carry two laser-guided Hellfire missiles. It is about 27 feet long, weighs more than 1,100 pounds and can
fly at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. The prime contractor is General
Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.
- Shadow: It's used by Army brigades on the
battlefield for reconnaissance. The Shadow is smaller than the
Global Hawk and Predator, with a wingspan of 12.3 feet, and it generally flies at altitudes
between 6,000 and 10,000 feet. The contractor is AAI
Corp., based in Maryland.
- Raven: Weighing a little more than 4 pounds, the
Raven has become a critical reconnaissance tool for smaller Army units,
such as companies and battalions.
It has a 5-foot wingspan, is a bit more than 3 feet
long. Soldiers can fling them into the air by hand, though it also has
an electric motor.
It is often used to locate roadside bombs or let
soldiers know what lies around the next corner or over the hill. The
contractor is California-based AeroVironment Inc.