A First For UAVs
Northrop Grumman announced Monday its RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV
reconnaissance system is the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to
achieve a military airworthiness certification. The certification,
along with the Certificate of Authorization from the FAA,
acknowledges the Global Hawk's ability to routinely fly within
Global Hawk's military airworthiness was certified January 25,
2006, by the US Air Force.
"This is a historic event," said Randy Brown, Global Hawk
Systems Group director with the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems
Center at Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "The aircraft was
evaluated against over 500 technical criteria in order to get this
Northrop Grumman representatives tell Aero-News the military
airworthiness certification covers all five production RQ-4A Global
Hawk vehicles delivered to the Air Force thus far, and outweighs
civilian experimental airworthiness certifications that have been
granted to other UAVs.
The extensive military
airworthiness certification process took three years and 77,000
man-hours to achieve. This is a continuous process that will be
maintained through the life of the aircraft, similar to that for
all manned aircraft.
"Global Hawk was also the first UAV to receive a National
Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation
Administration," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk
Program Director. "Global Hawk continues to be a trailblazer in
leading the way for UAV certifications."
To receive the COA, Northrop Grumman worked closely with the
Federal Aviation Administration to define airspace requirements for
UAVs. The airworthiness certification process for the new RQ-4B
Global Hawk has begun and is expected to be completed by late
The larger RQ-4B Global Hawk will carry fifty percent more
payload than the current RQ-4A Global Hawk. First flight for the
RQ-4B is planned later this year.
During three deployments in support of the war on terrorism,
more than 250 missions and 5,000 combat flight hours have been
logged by Global Hawk aircraft. The Global Hawk flies autonomously
at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet -- above inclement weather
and prevailing winds -- for more than 35 hours at a time.