SkyGuardian UAV demoed to RAF, USMC and RAAF
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has demonstrated the MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial vehicle that the Royal Air Force is acquiring to members of the service, as well as representatives from the US Marine Corps and Royal Australian Air Force.
The company’s Certifiable Ground Control Station was also demonstrated, as well as the UAV’s ability to automatically take-off, land and taxi over satellite communications (SATCOM), plus its portable pre/post-flight equipment (P3E) and mission intelligence centre.
The RAF is acquiring the certifiable UAV under its Protector programme, which will replace its in-service MQ-9 Reaper systems.
‘This demonstration was a complete success and has really built our anticipation and excitement about our new Protector RPA to a whole new level,’ Group Capt Lyndon Jones, the RAF’s Protector RG Mk1 programme director, said.
‘We witnessed some exciting technologies as part of the demonstration and we’re looking forward to incorporating these innovations into our fleet when we begin taking delivery of Protector in the early 2020s.’
The flight was carried out from Arizona to Nevada, and required no forward-deployed aircrew or ground control station.
The flight received Federal Aviation Administration clearance to fly without a chase plane, and landed using automatic take-off and landing capability via the SATCOM data link.
It then taxied while still under satellite control from Yuma, before being turned over to GA-ASI’s P3E, which is a laptop-based system that allows a forward-deployed maintainer to use automated pre-flight checklists to reduce pre-flight times by up to 50%.
This capability reduces the airlift requirements by eliminating the need for a forward-deployed GCS, GA-ASI says.
‘This flight demonstrated the full global expeditionary capabilities that the Protector will have when it joins the RAF fleet,’ David Alexander, president of GA-ASI, said.
‘In addition to RAF’s mission sets, the aircraft’s ability to fly seamlessly in civil airspace will allow it to support domestic emergencies such as fire, flood, and security-related missions.’
GA-ASI’s mission intelligence station provides a suite of intelligence products generated by the aircraft, including the System for the Tactical Archival, Retrieval and Exploitation, or STARE.
Network-enabled, the intelligence station allows for the rapid assessment and sharing of imagery by the intelligence specialist assigned to the mission, the company added.
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