MOSCOW, December 30 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. Army is almost ready to deploy to Afghanistan a new rotary-wing surveillance drone, the Boeing A160T Hummingbird, equipped with a cutting-edge 1.8-gigapixel camera, the army says.
Three drones, or unmanned air vehicles (UAV) in military jargon, will be deployed to Afghanistan in May or June, after they complete flight testing in Arizona at the beginning of the year, said the US Army's project manager for unmanned air systems modernization, Lt. Col. Matthew Munster.
The drones are capable of “beaming back information and images of the surrounding terrain” in real time thanks to the highly sensitive 1.8-gigapixel camera, the largest video sensor used in tactical missions, the U.S. Army said on its website.
Hummingbird's surveillance equipment can “track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet (over six kilometers) across almost 65 square miles (168 square kilometers),” the army said.
The 35-foot (11 meter) aircraft has the advantage of not needing a runway thanks to its rotary-wing configuration - ideal in Afghanistan's mountainous terrain.
The drones’ hovering capability is one of the unique features that existing unmanned aircraft do not have, maker Boeing says. Hummingbird also has better hovering performance than other rotary-wing UAVs thanks to new technology allowing it to change its rotor speed according to altitude.
The UAV's sophisticated "eye-in-the-sky" technology has, however, been blamed for a number of a "friendly fire" incidents in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Islamabad hit out furiously at NATO over drone strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border in November. NATO claimed the attack was a result of incorrect mapping information.
In early December, Iran unveiled video footage showing a captured U.S. RQ-170 UAV. Tehran refused to return the drone and demanded an apology from the Pentagon for the invasion of its territory.