US space agency NASA is flying a massive drone over Australia as part of its Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) flights. The flights analyse air samples in order to get a better idea of ‘tropospheric water vapour climate feedback’ as a measure of climate change.
In April 2001 the type of drone, the Northrop-Grumman Global Hawk, became the first unmanned, powered aircraft to cross the Pacific, landing in Australia after a 23-hour, 20-minute trip. The drone was designed originally for American combat operations.
AirServices Australia has alerted local pilots to look out for the drone, which will operate at heights between 45,000 and 60,000 feet until March 2 this year.