The Bulletin

Navy completes test flight of Triton spy drone

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In the next step for the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, the U.S. Navy took its MQ-4C Triton maritime drone to the skies for the first time.

The Triton drone is an upgrade on Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, which has been used by organizations including the U.S. Air Force and NASA for years to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and environmental study missions. However, the Triton has been optimized for ocean travel, with a strengthened body and de-icing capabilities beyond the Global Hawk.

The drone, designed to assist in ocean surveillance, was able to fly for 80 minutes and reach an altitude of 20,000 feet. It is expected to fly between 53,000 and 55,000 for most future missions, and advanced sensors are able to survey up to 2,000 miles of ocean in every direction in order to track and identify ships.

The Triton and software it employs to differentiate between different ocean vessels are still in early development, but as the Navy wants to secure 68 of the drones at five locations around the world in the future, reaching the test phase is still a substantial step.

Read More: PopSci

— By on May 22, 2013, 10:00 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure