An unpiloted aircraft system, operated by NASA and designed to gather atmospheric data, has completed its first flight over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
The Global Hawk can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000, roughtly twice as high as a commercial airliner, and as far as 11,000 nautical miles. Operators pre-program a flight path, and then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours.
courtesy NASA/Dryden/Carla Thomas
On its April 7, 2010, flight, the Global Hawk flew approximately 4,500 nautical miles along a flight path that took it just south of Alaska's Kodiak Island. The flight lasted 14,1 hours and flew up to 60,900 feet in altitude.