On Tuesday, an unmanned aircraft did its first flight in search of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. According to NBC News, the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone (manufactured by Northrop Grumman for the US Air Force) can stay airborne for 28 hours, has a range of 8,700 miles and can travel at speeds up to 350 mph. The drone joins several manned aircraft in the search for the Boko Haram militants and their captives.
The Global Hawk recorded its first flight in 1998 and is equipped with infrared, optical radar and synthetic aperture radar. According to Ars Technica, the synthetic aperture radar can be used to locate vehicles and buildings hidden by vegetation or buried underground, and the infrared systems serves to locate people through tree cover. Facial recognition, on the other hand, may prove to be impossible.
It is unknown where the drone is based, but it is entirely possible it has to travel thousands of miles just to arrive at the area it is surveying.
Meanwhile, the use of drones in search efforts for missing persons here in the U.S. is still forbidden by the FAA, though some private search and rescue companies have decided to fight back against this prohibition.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com