01 Jun 2017

General Atomics aircraft sets company record

A remotely piloted aircraft of General Atomics (GA-ASI) recently set an endurance flight company record. The MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) system, a version of the firm’s Predator B product line, was configured in an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) clean wing mode.

It took off on 16 May from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona with 6065 pounds of internal fuel. The aircraft flew between 25,000 and 35,000 feet for the duration of the mission and landed 48.2 hours later on 18 May with 280 pounds of reserve fuel.

Development of the MQ-9B began in 2012 as an internally funded effort. GA-ASI is currently building three company-owned aircraft and plans to deliver the first production aircraft next year.

The SkyGuardian version of the Predator B has been designed to operate under the stringent airworthiness requirements of non-military airspace. The weaponised variant of the system is being acquired by the Royal Air Force under the Protector programme.

A maritime patrol variant, SeaGuardian, is designed to support open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance. All three variants are designed to fly in excess of 35 hours with airspeeds up to 210 knots and reach altitudes of more than 40,000 feet.

“This long-endurance flight is not only a significant achievement for our MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft but also a very timely landmark event for our company as we celebrate 25 years of aviation innovation this year,” said General Atomics CEO Linden Blue. “GA-ASI continues to push the envelope with versatile, reliable, cost-effective and combat-proven RPA systems and sensors, and this latest feat is a testament to our industry legacy.”


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