The drone war in Pakistan may be on a temporary hiatus, that hasn’t stopped the Army from moving to send three of its newest drones to neighboring Afghanistan this Spring. The service is sending three of Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird drone choppers downrange for up to one year to feed the military’s insatiable hunger for more airborne ISR.
The helos will be equipped with the ARGUS wide area surveillance cameras, allowing the birds to hover and watch over massive swaths of land. Think of the typical UAV camera as looking at a region through a soda straw; operators and intel analysts only see the immediate area where the camera is focused. WAS systems like ARGUS are being developed to provide up to 65 video streams via one sensor package. This obviously gives a much broader picture of a region.
This deployment is meant to field test the concept of unmanned ISR choppers capable of performing serious recon missions from bases with no runways. If all goes well, the Army will launch a competition for this type of bird to enter large-scale production. We first reported on this effort last May. The service eventually wants a drone helo that can carry a variety of sensors at 6,000 feet in 95-degree temperatures and a flying duration of 12 to 24-hours.
Read more on the deployment here.