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MQ-9B Guardian

MQ-9B is the latest generation of GA-ASIs multi-mission Predator B fleet. GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian. MQ-9B is the result of a five-year company-funded effort to deliver an unmanned aircraft system that can operate in non-segregated, civil airspace, which meets the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO STANAG 4671. To highlight these capabilities in support of the celebration of the United Kingdoms Royal Air Force 100th anniversary (RAF100) in July, SkyGuardian became the first Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) UAS to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. The system features >40 hour endurance, all-weather, short-field, self-deployment (through SATCOM controlled automatic take-off and landing), and detect-and-avoid capabilities.

The Certifiable Predator B RPAS family includes two variants: SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian. Both RPAS utilize the same airframe as Certifiable Predator B including the long-span wings for increased range/ endurance and airworthiness flight/ mission system improvements to enhance safety and operational effectiveness. Both Guardian models typically carry the same communications systems and sensors. SeaGuardian includes a long range multimode 360 maritime radar such as the Raytheon SeaVue mounted beneath the fuselage. The 360 maritime radar provides a highly detailed real-time operational picture for domain awareness, supporting roles including border protection, anti-trafficking, search and rescue, mapping, fishery patrols, resource management and pollution monitoring.

The SkyGuardian is a NATO-standard variant of the B-model Predator. The Sky Guardian has a 13-foot longer wingspan than the Predator-B, a more damage tolerant composite airframe with double the service life, nearly twice the operational endurance and a greater payload capacity. GA-ASI has developed a variant of the Predator B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) that will meet NATO standards (STANAG-4671), and in cooperation with the FAA, will subsequently meet airworthiness certification standards domestically and around the world. It leverages both the Predator B RPA and advanced Cockpit Ground Control Station (GCS) as points of departure systems and identifies and incorporates the changes needed to achieve a "Type-Certifiable" system.

The MQ-9B is built from the ground up to meet global airworthiness standards. Both hardware and software upgrades will be made, such as improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance and more robust flight control software, as well as enhancements allowing operations in adverse weather including icing conditions. Additionally, the aircraft will be designed to survive bird and lightning strikes.

MQ-9B is highly modular and is easily configured with a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements. The aircraft is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads and includes a state-of-the art Detect and Avoid (DAA) system including space, weight, and power provisions to enable the retrofitting of an airborne Due Regard Radar (DRR) for operation in non-cooperative airspace.

On 19 November 2018 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) was notified that the Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to begin negotiations with the U.S. Government to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). We look forward to providing our unmanned aircraft systems to meet Belgiums mission requirements, while also supporting the NATO Alliance, said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. We are also eager to work with our industrial partners in Belgium on a host of activities ranging from manufacturing to maintenance.

SkyGuardian has also been selected by the Royal Air Force for its PROTECTOR RG Mk1 program.

GA-ASI developed a variant of the Predator B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) series that meets NATO standards (STANAG-4671), and in cooperation with the FAA, will subsequently meet airworthiness certification standards domestically and around the world. It leverages both the Predator B RPA and Certifiable Ground Control Station (CGCS) as points-of-departure systems and identifies and incorporates the changes needed to achieve a "Type-Certifiable" system. The Royal Air Force was the very first to acquire the SkyGuardian, referred to as PROTECTOR by the British acquisition program, as a replacement for its Reaper fleet.

MQ-9B contains both hardware and software upgrades, such as improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance and more robust flight control software, as well as enhancements allowing operations in adverse weather including icing conditions. Additionally, the aircraft will be designed to survive bird and lightning strikes.

A highly modular and is easily configured platform with a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements. The aircraft is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads and includes a state-of-the art Detect and Avoid (DAA) system including space, weight, and power provisions to enable the retrofitting of an airborne Due Regard Radar (DRR) for operation in non-cooperative airspace.

In order to fully exploit Predator Bs everexpanding capabilities, it must be capable of operations in non-segregated airspace, integrating seamlessly with manned aircraft. It follows that Predator B must be certified to meet similar design and build safety standards and requirements as manned aircraft, and have systems that are equivalent to the see-and-avoid capability of an onboard pilot, such as a Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) system.

GA-ASI developed the Certifiable Predator B (CPB) RPAS to meet these goals. GA-ASIs Certifiable Predator B aircraft will meet the requirements of its European customers, and, in cooperation with the FAA, will subsequently meet American domestic airworthiness certification standards. GA-ASI designed CPB in order to offer a certifiable RPAS, and in doing so, significantly extended Predator Bs already impressive endurance and range, further increasing its operational flexibility. CPBs 79-foot wing span accommodates an increase in endurance from 27 to over 40 hours. The wings integrate two additional hardpoints, increasing the number of external stores/payload-carrying stations to nine (four under each wing and one under the centreline).

CPBs design is driven by the needs of U.S. and European airworthiness regulations. The aircrafts parts and materials are traced via a paper trail that explains their manufacturing processes. For example, the RPAS uses approved materials to extend its fatigue life that enhance its maintainability, while extending the airframes design life from 20,000 to 40,000 flight hours. Additional hardware and software upgrades are being made, such as a flight data recorder, more robust flight control software, and antiicing/de-icing systems, allowing operations in adverse weather. Additionally, the aircraft is designed to survive bird and lightning strikes. CPB also features an Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS) based upon GA-ASIs Gray Eagle ATLS, which has conducted tens of thousands of successful take-offs and landings.

Certifiable Predator B is highly modular and is easily configured with a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements. The aircraft includes a state-of-the art DAA system radar developed by GA-ASI called the Due Regard Radar (DRR) that ensures safe separation with non-cooperative aircraft.

While aircraft position-transmitting systems integrated into CPB (such as Traffic Alert and Collison Avoidance System (TCAS) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B)) enable detection and avoidance of like-equipped aircraft, not all aircraft are fitted with such position-transmitting systems. The GA-ASI developed DRR compensates for this by enabling detection and avoidance of aircraft not equipped to transmit TCAS or ADS-B signals. In fact, the DRR is able to detect aircraft at ranges greater than a pilots eyes would allow, increasing airborne safety. TCAS, ADS-B and DRR system information combine to provide the pilot with avoidance advisories in the ground control station, giving the pilot situational awareness across the same field-of-view as that of a manned aircraft.

The DAA systems avoidance advisories allow manoeuvring by the pilot or automatically, ensuring safe separation of aircraft. Developed on GA-ASI internal funding, DRR will enable Certifiable Predator B to meet the requirements to fly in non-segregated airspace. DRR is comprised of a two-panel Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antenna and a Radar Electronics Assembly (REA). AESA technology allows the DRR to track multiple targets while simultaneously continuing to scan for new aircraft.

GA-ASI has partnered with the FAA, NASA, and several other aerospace companies to ensure that a DAA capability becomes reality. NASA is providing its Predator B Ikhana aircraft for DAA testing while the FAAs Airborne Collision Avoidance System-X unmanned (ACAS XU) RPAS collision avoidance algorithm leverages GA-ASIs DRR to detect and track non-cooperative aircraft. GA-ASI is leading the design, development, and flight-testing of a full DAA capability in concert with an enhanced command and control data link technology, both of which will be integrated into CPB. The DAA and the enhanced data links will be standardized in the U.S. Additionally, the DAA and data links will be evaluated in support of NASA, which is gathering the critical data necessary for the FAA to finalize its technical standards for RPAS flight within the NAS.

In the summer of 2015, GA-ASI flew the companys prototype DAA system on-board NASAs Ikhana aircraft. NASA will conduct future tests in the summer of 2016, for which DRR will be integrated, demonstrating a standardized system. Notably, GA-ASIs TCAS II is auto-coupled to Ikhanas triple redundant flight computer to enable automatic collision avoidance manoeuvres, and could prove critical in the unlikely event that the data link is lost. To address this issue and to increase data link reliability, GA-ASI is standardizing both Line-of-Sight (LOS) and Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) satellite communication systems for command and control by making them more robust, as well as helping to define protected aviation frequency systems.

GA-ASI developed Certifiable Predator B to meet the airworthiness certification requirements of its European customers. The company collaborated with RUAG and the LufABw (military aviation authority) in Germany. The lead customer of CPB is the United Kingdom, which currently operates MQ-9 Reaper. GA-ASI has been involved with the UK on RPAS certification issues, including a two-year risk assessment/reduction contract under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Scavenger programme, which was subsequently renamed Protector. These efforts continue to support the expected procurement of 20 or more platforms.

As a baseline for the development of CPB, GA-ASI began with the technical airworthiness requirements set out in NATO and U.S. standards. When designing CPB, GA-ASI also factored in the safety requirements of Certifiable Predator B: Meeting the Standards for European Airworthiness Certification the UKs MAA (Military Aviation Authority) for overall system design. Stakeholders in the MAA approval process include the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the National Air Traffic Service (NATS).

While these agencies are UK-specific, they work closely with pan-European organizations such as EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). RPAS certification is the responsibility of each nation, and each country works to similar guidelines within the overall NATO and EASA framework.

In February 2016, GA-ASI conducted the first flight of Predator B Extended Range (ER) Long Wing, retrofitted with improved long-endurance wings featuring greater internal fuel capacity and additional hardpoints for carrying external stores. Its 79-foot wing additionally served as proof-of-concept for Certifiable Predator B and represents the first of its airframe components to be produced. GA-ASI conducted a series of flight tests of a prototype CPB aircraft in 2016, leading to the first flight of a production aircraft.

Currently operating worldwide, Predator B represents a proven capability. Flying around the-clock, the aircraft delivers persistent surveillance and essential situational awareness for defence forces worldwide, as well as for first responders and border agents in America. Building upon the success of Predator B, the development of Certifiable Predator B promises to push RPAS technology to new frontiers.




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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:55:27 ZULU