The U.S. Navy’s massive new MQ-4C Triton surveillance drone, unveiled in June 2012, reached a new milestone Thursday. At 7:53 a.m., one of the 131-foot wide aircraft landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland following its first cross-country flight, the Navy said. The drone soared at heights of more than 50,000 feet at times; it departed from a facility in Palmdale, Calif., owned by its maker Northrop Grumman, late Wednesday. It flew along the U.S.-Mexico border, over the Gulf of Mexico and across Florida before turning north up the Atlantic Coast.
The drone is expected to supplement the Navy’s new P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane, performing what the service calls Broad Area Maritime Surveillance, or BAMS.
A descendant of the Air Force’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, MQ-4C Triton will rely on radar, infrared sensors and advanced cameras to provide full-motion video and photographs to the military.
Northrop Grumman said Thursday that over the next few weeks, two other Triton drones will fly to Maryland. One is owned by the Navy; the other is a demonstration aircraft owned by the defense firm.
The MQ-4C Triton is expected to be fully operational in 2017.
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