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The US has deployed a pair of surveillance drones to Japan

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U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny Saldivar

A pair of unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drones have been deployed to Japan by the US Air Force, possibly to keep an eye on North Korea and naval operations in China. According to the Associated Press, the drones will use the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan through October, though the US government has not provided any details on the missions that will be carried out.

Same drones used to track hurricanes

The Global Hawk drones are made by aerospace and military contractor Northrop Grumman, and specialize in long-distance, high-altitude unmanned flights. Last year, a Global Hawk flew for more than 34 hours at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet. It also set a record in 2001 for flying unmanned across the Pacific Ocean in less than a day. Japan intends to buy three of the drones, the AP says.

These particular drones have a history of both military and humanitarian use. The aircraft was used to help find and kill Osama bin Laden, but it was also tapped by NASA to track hurricanes. More recently, the drones were used in a NATO trial, which took them through UK airspace for the first time ever this week. They were also utilized for reconnaissance on the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped last month.