The number and range of uses of RQ-4 Global Hawk HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs continue to increase. It was announced earlier this week that the US would be deploying two RQ-4’s at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture in the north east of Japan. The drones are currently stationed in Guam but this puts them in the path of typhoons that frequently pass through the area.
The Global Hawk proved its worth in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami by providing surveillance and intelligence gathering during disaster relieve and recovery missions. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the Japanese company TEPCO used a sUAV to photograph and film the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant after the disaster. The photos and footage obtained greatly assisted the engineers in assessing the situation without putting anyone at risk while gathering the information.
The Global Hawk will be operated jointly by the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and US Air Force (USAF), but some have speculated that use of such drones contravene sections of the country’s Civil Aeronautics Law.
Cruising at an altitude of about 60,000ft with an endurance of about 30 hours, the RQ-4 Global Hawk from Northrop-Grumman can gather data from an area of about 38,000 square miles. This makes it ideal for long and detailed non-military tasks like mapping.