Sunday, January 31, 2010

Predators: Swords as Plowshares

Unmanned Predator aircraft like those usually used by the US Air Force to spy on and attack terrorists in Afghanistan and other locations are being used to assist recovery efforts in Haiti.
The Predators have flown two round-the-clock orbits over Port-au-Prince, feeding full-motion video of roads and buildings, devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake, to service members, relief organizations and Haitian officials.

"We have focused a lot on roads and infrastructure because they want to see what is intact," said Maj. Jeff Bright, the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing detachment commander during a Jan. 28 telephone interview from Puerto Rico.

The Air Force didn’t receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration until Jan. 25. Predators and MQ-9 Reapers had never before received FAA approval to operate out of a civilian airport.

Brig. Gen. Darryl Burke, the Air Forces Southern vice commander acting as the Air Component Coordination with Joint Task Force-Haiti, said the Predator’s Haitian flights represent a historic first that could further debate regarding remotely piloted aircraft operations inside the U.S.

This development could also be relevant to future operations at US spaceports as commercial and military uses space expand.

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