General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following its flight through multiple classes of non-segregated airspace.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) flew from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., through National Airspace, to its Gray Butte Flight Operations facility in California on August 16.
The MQ-9B is a STANAG 4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for Unmanned Aircraft Systems)-compliant version of the Predator B product line.
The 275-mile trip lasted approximately one hour, 45 minutes and required FAA approval to fly through various classes of non-restricted airspace, the company announced Friday last week.
"This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets NATO airworthiness requirements for UAS," said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI.
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.
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General Atomics has been awarded a $329 million contract for MQ‐1 Predator and MQ‐9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft support and services. This contract provides for core management, logistics support, configuration management, technical manual and software maintenance, contractor field service representative support, inventory control point management, flight operations support, depot repair, and depot field maintenance, US department of defense said in a statement Friday
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