Northrop Grumman has announced that it will collaborate with Canadian aerospace and defence company L-3 MAS to send a variant of the Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) into Arctic skies.

Used extensively for surveillance in Afghanistan, the first production version of the Global Hawk was unveiled in 2006 and successfully completed a record 33 hour flight at altitudes up to 60,000 feet in 2008.

According to a statement by Northrup Grumman, the new "Polar Hawk" variant will be designed to "stay aloft for long periods of time in harsh weather conditions over vast expanses of the Earth's surface monitoring land, ice, littoral and open water environments throughout the Arctic."

"Polar Hawk'sTM operational features are uniquely suited to augment Canada's existing surveillance capabilities and extend its reach to patrol large geographical areas, keeping constant vigil over the nation's vast Arctic region from coast-to-coast in a single mission," said Duke Dufresne, vice president and general manager for Northrop Grumman's unmanned systems business.

The unmanned aircraft has a range of 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles) and earlier versions have been operated as far as 85 degrees north latitude.

In addition to defence surveillance duties, Polar Hawk could also be used to support humanitarian, science and environmental missions.