The Navy plans to launch its first unmanned-helicopter squadron next month in San Diego as part of a training program to prepare its pilots for remotely operating more advanced drone aircraft.
Weighing up to 6,000-pounds, the drones may eventually accompany all Navy vessels, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune
Navy officials said the Fire Scout helicopters, most of them built by Northrop Grumman, are better than airplanes for multi-tasking, including reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.
They are lighter than traditional manned helicopters and can stay in the air longer because there won't be any concerns about crew fatigue or length of mission. And unlike the Predator drone aircraft flown by the Air Force, they don't need runways to take off and land.
“It’s an exciting time for naval aviation. It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes. It’s definitely the path forward,” said Capt. Frank Harrison, a senior helicopter pilot who is leading the fleet integration team for unmanned helicopters.
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