The drone that the US says was shot down in international airspace on Thursday was a MQ-4C Triton, designed by US national security contractor Northrop Grumman.
It is the larger, maritime-optimized cousin to Northrop’s Global Hawk, and is capable of carrying out surveillance missions for up to 24 hours, with a sensor that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings for over 2,000 nautical miles.
Triton operates from “five land-based sites worldwide as a part of a family of maritime patrol and reconnaissance systems,” according to the United States Government Accountability Office. Designs on the drone started in 2008 and it had its first flight in 2013, before reaching Initial Operational Capability (IOC) last year.
The US Navy has ordered 68 of the aircraft, which had a reported total program cost of $12.7 billion. Australia is also spending $6.2 billion to acquire six of the aircraft.
A video from the US Navy shows the aircraft making its first flight: