The US Navy's New Triton Drone Just Flew Clear Across America

By Andrew Tarantola on at

Less than half a year after being greenlit, the US Navy's newest broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) platform, the MQ-4C Triton, has just passed a major developmental milestone—as well as the whole of the contiguous United States.

The Triton set down just before 8am (local time) yesterday at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland after completing its first cross-country ferry flight. It left from Northrop Grumman's Palmdale facility in California 11 hours prior and travelled some 3,290 nautical miles along the Southern US border, across the Gulf of Mexico, and up the Atlantic seaboard at an altitude of 50,000 feet. This not only kept the UAS out of the way of civilian air traffic, it also gave NG crews the opportunity to shakedown the platform over land, where it could be more easily recovered should something malfunction, as well as break the platform's endurance record.

"The coordination to bring the US Navy's largest unmanned asset across the country was significant and involved many organisations," Capt. Jim Hoke, PMA-262's program manager, said in a press briefing. "This phenomenal team executed the system's longest flight to date exactly as planned."

The Triton must now undergo further flight envelope, sensor, communications, and subsystem testing before it can be cleared for service with the fleet in 2017. [Navy via WaPo]