Guess we can toss out any concerns about privacy - capabilities include listening in on phone calls, using high-powered radar and shooting live video footage at 30,000 feet. These are just the sorts of capabilities that U.S. intelligence folks have been emphasizing in Pakistan. The Firebird was designed, built and tested by Northrop's Scaled Composites design shop in Mojave (overseen by Burt Rutan before he retired in April). From the LAT:
Until now, U.S. military aircraft have been designed to either have a pilot on board or be an unmanned drone. But Northrop's new plane, dubbed the Firebird, can switch from being a traditional aircraft to a drone with just a few modifications. The Century City company is developing the propeller-powered Firebird at its own expense. It is betting that the hybrid plane will appeal to the Pentagon as defense budget cuts loom and the federal government deals with rising deficits.