Firebird Aircraft System is a game changer in commercial market due to range, altitude, endurance, and sensor payload capabilities in the UAS industry
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Grand Sky Development Company, LLC, has signed a deposit agreement with Northrop Grumman to purchase Firebird, the company’s optionally piloted intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft system.
Northrop Grumman’s Firebird product line delivers medium altitude, long-endurance multi-mission flexibility and value, according to a recent press release. Available in manned, autonomous and optionally piloted configurations, Firebird is designed to deliver critical ISR capability to meet customer mission needs.
“We are excited to bring Firebird to Grand Sky to utilize its long-endurance and variable payload capabilities for commercial customers. Our initial goal is to support energy infrastructure monitoring and humanitarian and disaster relief operations by leveraging Firebird’s range, altitude and endurance,” Grand Sky Development Co. President Thomas Swoyer Jr., said. “We see the incredible efficiencies to be gained in the market with technology like Firebird enabling affordable data gathering on a massive scale not previously available to the commercial market space.”
Grand Sky is the nation’s first commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) testing and training center and is home to one of Northrop Grumman’s North Dakota locations. Built to support large UAS operations, the services and capabilities at Grand Sky will help define how drones are used based on their ability to collect large amounts of different types of data. Firebird has capabilities to meet critical information gaps for Grand Sky’s clients and partners. It is capable of multiple mission sets using many sensors that enable data collection for a variety of customers on every mission. The aircraft can reach anywhere in the country, operating for 30 or more hours and simultaneously support multiple missions.
Firebird brings efficiency to the commercial market that doesn’t currently exist. Firebird will be based at Grand Sky, and after launch can fly anywhere in the country, staying on station for multiple hours before returning. Firebird mission capabilities include ISR, domestic security, emergency response, communications, humanitarian, and scientific efforts.
“Grand Sky is pleased to bring this transformational concept to the UAS industry. We saw a void in the industry and knew that the ability to provide a service that no one else can support is imperative to move various industries forward,” Swoyer said. “The goal is to have the aircraft deployed around the country on a variety of missions. Our ability to map vast areas, stay “on-station” over an area for long periods of time to support emergency response or to reach remote areas is unmatched. No small UAS or small UAS swarm can match the capability and versatility of Firebird.”
The addition of Firebird reportedly will provide Grand Sky’s clients with access to a truly unique UAS operational capability and data collection system, in addition to better facilities, comprehensive airspace surveillance, and wide operational areas.