'Global Hawk' Photographs Damage to Help Relief Effort
By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2010 A high-tech, unmanned Air Force aircraft is flying over Haiti to collect imagery of vital infrastructure in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that struck the island.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk’s photos are providing critical assessment data for earthquake recovery efforts and will inform the U.S. military where they can position assets, Air Force Col. Bradley G. Butz told reporters during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable today. Butz is vice commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
The Global Hawk flew 14 hours yesterday and will log another 16 hours today, providing about 2,000 images of some 1,000 targets, Butz said. “I think we have pretty good coverage of the entire situation and across the spectrum of capabilities,” he added.
The priority is to capture the condition of key infrastructure such as airstrips, bridges and ports throughout the country, where relief agencies may be able to gain entrance to reach injured and trapped people. The clarity of the high-altitude images is good enough, Butz said, “to determine a go [or] no-go,” for the use of airport facilities.
Analysts, including some working for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, will compare the Global Hawk photos with reference images taken in June to discern what damage was caused by the earthquake, Butz said. The images will be available to U.S. Southern Command officials coordinating the military effort in Haiti.
“The objective is massive distribution to everyone supplying relief,” he said.
The Global Hawk had been slated to go to Afghanistan, Butz said, but was diverted by a Southcom request for help in Haiti. “To my knowledge, this is first time for the use of this aircraft for disaster relief in the Caribbean,” the colonel said.
The Global Hawk was flown from its home station at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. It refueled at the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md., before arriving in Haiti.
(Judith Snyderman is assigned to Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)