NASA transformed a robotic plane that’s typically used by the U.S. military to uncover nests of insurgents into a scientific tool capable of collecting atmospheric information over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
On April 7, NASA used the unmanned spy plane, called the Global Hawk, on the first of five flights it has scheduled this month to study air quality.
Instead of the high-resolution cameras and heat-seeking sensors the plane is typically carries when used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Global Hawk was outfitted with a series of instruments capable of measuring and sampling greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, and aerosols.
NASA’s mission, a joint project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been dubbed Global Hawk Pacific, or GloPac.
The Global Hawk took off and landed at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in the Mojave Desert without the need of a pilot’s hand. Instead, NASA pilots simply designed a flight path for the plane to follow and sent it on its way.
According to NASA, it flew more than 14 hours along a flight path that took it 4,500 nautical miles — just south of Alaska’s Kodiak Island…
[continues in the Los Angeles Times]