NASA is to take delivery of two ex-US Air Force Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk technology demonstrators, which will be used to provide unmanned air vehicle services for outside customers.
The two high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs, the first and sixth Global Hawks built, will be operated by the new UAV Service Center at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California.
The centre will operate as a business unit and will market the services of its UAVs for science missions to be performed for other government agencies and customers. The unit has also purchased a new General Atomics Predator B UAV, which is now undergoing flight tests before delivery.
Ownership of the two low-time Global Hawks is expected to be transferred from the USAF to NASA within 60 days. The centre hopes to begin flying the aircraft - which will have their military sensors removed - within one to two years, with the timing paced by the need to build a new control station as the air force cannot spare any of its ground systems.