Scaled-designed Firebird Spy Plane Flies With or Without Pilot
May 12, 2011 — Scaled Composites designed the aircraft while Northrop Grumman Corporation developed the internal payloads that can collect intelligence, conduct reconnaissance, and simultaneously execute communications functions such as real-time video. The result, unveiled this week by Northrop Grumman, is an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) called Firebird, which can be flown manned or unmanned. The payloads are carried internally to help extend aircraft endurance, which could be as long as 40 hours. The system is designed for “plug and play” internal payloads, much like a computer memory stick. The aircraft flew a mere 12 months after the concept was first developed. The first manned flight will take place at the end of May or in early June.