When Northrop Grumman showcased its new, optionally manned Firebird aircraft by flying it to locations across the United States, the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport—home to the University of Maryland (UMD) UAS Test Site as well as TechPort, an incubator launched by UMD—was one of five stops chosen. The selection highlights Southern Maryland’s growing role as a hub for the burgeoning unmanned aviation industry, as well as the continued significance of Naval Air Station Patuxent River. ”We have a lot of people in St. Mary’s who are involved at some level in the industry, whether as aviators, entrepreneurs, or enthusiasts,” notes Matt Scassero, director of the UMD UAS Test Site. “Naturally there was a great deal of interest in the opportunity to see this new aircraft in person.” The Firebird is a medium-altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft system that can also be flown as a manned aircraft, allowing it to use national airspace. According to Jane Bishop, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager for autonomous systems, it can be converted from a manned to autonomous configuration in under two hours. In addition to St. Mary’s County, the showcase tour involved stops and on-the-tarmac briefings in Dayton, Ohio; Washington DC; Tampa, Miami, and […]
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