The US Army will deploy a newly-developed helicopter-like unmanned drone in Afghanistan with a wide-area surveillance sensor suite that could beam back clearer images of the surrounding terrain.
The army said the new Boeing-built A160 Hummingbird promised American soldiers "an unprecedented capability to track and monitor activity on the ground".
Beginning in May or June of 2012, the Army will deploy three A160 Hummingbird Vertical-Take-Off-and-Landing Unmanned Aerial Systems, or VTOL-UAS, to Afghanistan as part of a Quick Reaction Capability, said Lt. Col. Matthew Munster, product manager, UAS Modernisation.
"These aircraft will deploy for up to one full year as a way to harness lessons learned and funnel them into a programme of record," Munster said in a statement.
Army VTOL UAS programme developers and engineers were finishing up some wiring work on the A160 aircraft and performing ground tests with the ARGUS sensor suite.
"The ARGUS sensor suite has never been flown on this platform before so we have to make sure that the integration is complete. We are finishing that up now and adding some different types of antennas. We begin flight testing of the UAS at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, early next year," Munster said.
The VTOL aircraft will give forward-positioned Army units the ability to deploy a wide-area UAS Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance, or ISR, asset without needing access to a runway.
The CIA currently use Predator and Reaper drones to target militant hideouts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The US is increasingly relying on drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries across the globe, The Washington Post had reported this week.
The Obama administration, in fact, is using a wide variety of these unmanned aerial vehicles to meet its national security interest and successfully strike back at terrorists hiding away from it, the report had said.