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November 11, 2010

Mystery aircraft over Reisterstown

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:NOAA Altair

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
        

Comments

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 vivi.net.) http://viivi.net/index.php?key=MQ-9

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:

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/systemops/aaim/organizations/uas/coa/

http://www.aaicorp.com/products/uas/air_vehicles.html

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.

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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
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