I had the opportunity to speak to Colonel Bradley G. Butz who is the Vice Commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Wing, based at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Col Butz briefed us on the use of the RQ-4 Global Hawk in support of the relief efforts in Haiti. Yesterday, the Global Hawk launched from Beale Air Force Base in California and made its way to it operating area over Haiti. Once there, it spent approximately 14 hours on station capturing around 700 images in total. All images will be made unclassified and distributed to anyone who needs the, he has indicated that they will be made available on the “unclassified internet”. At the end of its duty day yesterday, the Global Hawk returned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, where it will remain until it has completed this mission. Once it has been released, it will continue on to the middle east to support the ongoing conflicts there.
The images captured by the Global Hawk are being compared to those captured during a bar camera mission that was executed this past June. It’s important for aid workers on the ground to have relevant historical images to compare the current images to. Most of the images captured yesterday were of what appear to be destroyed buildings. The Col indicated that it’s difficult to see if some of the buildings in the images have been completely destroyed, even when comparing them to historical references.
The Global Hawk will launch again this morning and spend a total of 16 hours on station and will capture more than 1000 images of critical infrastructure. The Col indicated that the use of Global Hawk in this manner is somewhat unprecedented, but the Air Force is committed to providing whatever resources are available and necessary to accomplish the mission. The Col also mentioned that he assumed the Global Hawk would remain in it’s current role in Haiti until it was deemed no longer needed by the President.
As soon as the images captured by Global Hawk become available, I will post some of them here and post a link to the complete catalog.
Here’s some of the first publicly available RQ-4 Images of Haiti: