SAN DIEGO. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) flew an MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), also known as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or drone, from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., through National Airspace, to its Gray Butte Flight Operations facility near Palmdale, Calif. The 275-mile trip lasted approximately one hour, 45 minutes and required FAA approval to fly through various classes of non-restricted airspace.
“This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets NATO airworthiness requirements for UAS,” says GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue. “MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be the first RPA system of its kind with a design-assurance level compliant with international type-certification standards, and can therefore be integrated more easily than legacy RPAs into civil airspace operations around the world.”
The MQ-9B is a STANAG 4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for Unmanned Aircraft Systems)-compliant version of the Predator B product line.
A weaponized variant of the system is being acquired by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) under the MQ-9B PROTECTOR program. A maritime patrol variant, SeaGuardian, is designed to support open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance. All variants are designed to fly in excess of 35 hours with airspeeds up to 210 knots, and to reach altitudes of more than 40,000 feet.
Development of MQ-9B began in 2012 as a company-funded effort. Program highlights include first flight in November 2016 and an endurance flight in May 2017 of 48.2 hours.
Qualification testing for type-certification will continue over the next two years, with deliveries to the RAF expected to begin early next decade.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator RPA series and the Lynx Multi-mode Radar. Celebrating over 25 years of aviation innovation, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas.
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