Northrop Grumman has unveiled an advanced intelligence-gathering aircraft system known as "Firebird."
The platform provides access to real-time high-definition video, infrared imagery/radar and is capable of intercepting communications signals.
In addition, Firebird - which can be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft - operates multiple intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications payloads simultaneously through a universal interface.
According to Northrop exec Rick Crooks, Firebird's interface is similar to plugging a memory stick into a personal computer that is automatically recognized without needing to load additional software.
"Firebird is an adaptable system that makes it highly affordable because of the number of different missions it can accomplish during a single flight," explained Crooks.
"[And], not only have we increased the number of ISR sensors working simultaneously in an aircraft of this size, but we can also incorporate various sensors that complement each other - greatly enhancing Firebird's information-gathering value for warfighters."
Firebird is scheduled for an operational demonstration in an optionally-piloted configuration from May 23 - June 3, 2011, during Empire Challenge 2011, a military exercise run by U.S. Joint Forces Command.