The US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has successfully completed its first cross-country ferry flight from California to Maryland, US.
The flight was mainly aimed at demonstrating its capability to perform operational missions in the maritime domain.
During the 11-hour, 3,290nm flight, the aircraft, which was controlled by a joint team from a ground station at the Palmdale Navy System Integration Lab at Patuxent River, ferried the broad-area maritime surveillance demonstrator from Palmdale to Patuxent River.
Naval Air Systems Command Triton programme manager captain James Hoke said: "Now that the aircraft has arrived, we are ready to conduct the next phase of the test programme.
"Triton is one of the navy’s most significant investments in unmanned aircraft systems to date and we look forward to evaluating its capabilities."
Prior to the latest flight, Triton had already completed 15 test flights, which determined its ability to operate at a range of speeds and altitudes.
Furthermore, this UAS will be joined by two other Tritons at Patuxent River, which will be deployed during system development and demonstration assessments.
Northrop Grumman Triton UAS programme director Mike Mackey said: "Triton is the navy’s largest, most advanced unmanned maritime surveillance system to cross such a distance.
"The successful flight was the result of a navy / Northrop Grumman team effort, from finishing a major software package to managing equipment inspections."
The Northrop-built Triton, which is mainly targeted at executing maritime missions lasting for approximately 24 hours, is capable of flying at altitudes for more than 10 miles. This capability allows it to cover about a million square nautical miles of ocean during a single mission.
Image: Triton UAS taking off from Northrop Grumman’s facility. Photo: courtesy of Alan Radecki.