Rise of the drones

A Rq-4A Global Hawk begins its descent with an initial decrease in altitude to 20,000 feet. The RQ-4A Global Hawk is one of the largest of a breed of pilotless airships that may help revolutionize the war on terrorism.

There are two interesting stories today involving unmanned aircraft, or drones, over U.S. skies. 

USA Today reports that the U.S. Homeland Security Department and the military this summer will test whether drones flying 65,000 feet above the nation’s busiest airports could be used to protect planes from being shot down by terrorists with shoulder-fired missiles.

Dubbed “Project Chloe” after a character on Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s favorite TV show, 24, the anti-missile strategy is the latest to be explored by government leaders looking to thwart potential missile threats at airports. 

The drones, to be tested over the Patuxent River Naval Air Station outside Washington, would be outfitted with missile-warning systems and possibly anti-missile lasers that could send plane-bound missiles veering off course.

In other news, CNN International reports that an unmanned plane helped border agents net a man wanted on child abuse charges in Washington state.

The aircraft was flying along the Arizona-Mexico border late Tuesday when it detected and tracked six suspected aliens, including the suspect.

Unmanned aircraft have flown nearly 2,000 hours, directly contributing to more than 3,900 arrests and the seizure of approximately 13,660 pounds of marijuana. But the systems are costly and authorities have had difficulties integrating them into civil airspace, where the possibility of colliding with private aircraft must be minimized.

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