« New from Sterling: Top B'more snowstorms | Main | Double-digit snow is rare here in La Nina winters »

November 11, 2010

Mystery aircraft over Reisterstown


Doug Warner, in Reisterstown says.This summer/fall I have seen a drone-type aircraft fly over the area west to east. They’re a shiny silver color with a pusher engine. Any idea where they’re from and where they’re going?AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, makes several unmanned aerial vehicles for the military and NOAA. But AAI says UAVs are not allowed in civilian airspace. Other possibilities? There are one-man ultra-lights with pusher motors. And some radio-controlled models are nearly as big as some military drones.

(NOAA photo)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Watching


I live in Timber Grove. I have not seen this aircraft fly around my house. Can you tell me how regularly you see the aircraft flying and what times?

I did a search on remote control aircraft, thinking this might be somebody's radio-controlled model kit. Your picture looks a lot like the real MQ-9 Reaper, aka Predator, UAV in the pictures in link below. Either the military or a contractor is flying one in the area for some reason, or it's a replica somebody made or bought from a model maker. (Saw some pretty sophisticated large models in my search. If link doesn't work, search on terms here or go to

FR: If it's the military or a contractor with a real UAV, they're violating FAA regulations. The photo, as noted, is a NOAA drone, the Altair, based on General Atomics' MQ9-Reaper drone built for the military. The NOAA (and NASA) version is used for research and hurricane data collection. It's not a photo of the craft our reader reported seeing.

Sorry for not paying more attention. I realized later that your link has practically the same aircraft in my link, and I missed the NOAA credit for your photo.

Quick comment on the comment by Clayton: MQ-9 Reaper is a very different aircraft from the RQ-1 Predator. The Reaper is much larger and the tail, engine and payload are different as well.

The way you describe the aircraft sounds like it could be a UAV. AAI would need a place to test their products and without looking at airspace charts, just west of Reisterstown seems like it would be a good place. I'm not sure why you think that a military or contractor UAV would necessarily be violating FAA regulations. While it is true that UAVs are not authorized in the NAS as a matter of course, it is possible to get a COA almost anywhere in class G airspace. I'm sure that AAI knows this and uses COAs to test their UAVs, especially if restricted airspace is unavailable close by. As for the type of aircraft, AAI makes an aircraft called an Aerosonde that can look a little like a Reaper while flying if there is no reference to size. They also make the Shadow which is very common, but it's doubtful a Shadow would ever be confused with a Reaper. A Shadow's tail is very distinct with two supports coming from the wing with the pusher prop in between.

For reference:

FR: Thanks. The bottom line is that the AAI spokesman said it wasn't their aircraft, and he cited FAA regulations as the reason. Nor was it NOAA. If someone else got a waiver and flew the UA, we don't know who it was.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center

Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected