Unmanned Chopper Serves as Comm Relay in Exercise

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Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems demonstrated an unmanned helicopter during a recent U.S. Army exercise that could provide deployed troops with a variety of capabilities, including mobile communications and Internet service and traditional video feeds, according to a Feb. 24 Northrop Grumman press release.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman is developing the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, based on a commercial Sikorsky Aircraft platform, for a variety of U.S. government and international customers. Northrop said the helicopter can take off and land autonomously and deploy from the ground or aviation-capable ships. The helicopter’s ability to operate at low speeds enables it to move with troops in the field for sorties as long as five hours, according to the press release.

During the Army’s recent Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, Ga., the Fire Scout hovered some 1,200 meters above ground forces and provided them with high-fidelity electro-optical and infrared video with its sensor and the ability to chat and share files in an Internet-like environment with its communications payload built by Raytheon Co.