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US musters Global Hawk drone for Japan relief

The US is sending a robotic aerial vehicle to Japan to help disaster relief agencies, providing pictures of the damage suffered by towns and facilities affected by the earthquake
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

The US Air Force is sending a surveillance drone to Japan to gauge damage caused by the earthquake on Friday and the subsequent tsunami.

Global Hawk Japan quake

The Global Hawk drone will be used to gauge damage from the Japan quake. Photo credit: US Air Force

The high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle will be used to survey and gather images of towns, industrial infrastructure and other facilities affected by the 9.0-magnitude quake, the US Air Force's Pacific division said on Wednesday.

"The Global Hawk is an ideal ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] asset to aid in disaster relief," General Gary North, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. "It directly complements ongoing efforts in the region and represents how advanced technology can provide crucial and timely support to... search, recovery and disaster relieve efforts."

The drone will assess damage to the stricken nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, according a report in Kyodo News on Thursday.

The Global Hawk can remain in the air for up to 30 hours at a time and can go up to 60,000 feet above sea level. It requires a remote crew of three to be operated. The unmanned drone was also used to provide similar post-quake humanitarian services to Haiti in January 2010, and it has been used widely in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.

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