I recently taught a class to some of the software engineers who write the in-flight software for the Global Hawk.
The UAV flies at up to 60,000 feet and can “loiter” over an interesting location for 23 hours beaming live surveillance information to observers via satellite – the bulbous nose houses the steerable dish antenna that remains locked on the satellite to be used, some of which are in polar orbits and, therefore, in constant “motion ” relative to Earth-side locations.
Depending on conditions and requirements, a ton and a half (3000 lbs) of varied instrumentation can be accommodated on board.
Global Hawk officially went into service in the months after 9/11/01 with earlier versions providing services on an experimental basis. US service branches impose unique requirements as does NASA who also flies this flexible platform.
It is an honor to participate in any degree, no matter how small or indirect, in this extraordinary program.