MQ-9B SkyGuardian achieves new milestone
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAS has completed an FAA-approved flight from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, through national airspace to the Gray Butte Flight Operations facility near Palmdale, California.
The flight lasted for approximately one hour and 45 minutes, and covered a distance of 275 miles. The UAS required FAA approval to fly through various classes of non-restricted airspace for the trip.
The MQ-9B is a STANAG 4671 compliant version of the Predator B product line. STANAG 4671 is the NATO airworthiness standard for UAS.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring a weaponised variant of the UAS. A maritime patrol variant, SeaGuardian, is being developed to support open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance. All variants are intended to fly in excess of 35 hours with airspeeds up to 210 knots, and reaching altitudes of more than 40,000ft.
Linden Blue, CEO at GA-ASI, said: ‘This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets NATO airworthiness requirements for UAS. 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.’
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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