Military Embedded Systems

Predator B Extended Range aircraft increases flight time

News

March 03, 2016

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

WASHINGTON. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), officials announced the first flight of Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper Extended Range (ER) Long Wing, which is retrofitted with enhanced long-endurance wings with more internal fuel capacity and additional hard points for carrying external stores.

The flight was performed on last month at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Test Facility in Palmdale, Calif., on a test aircraft.

"Predator B ER's new 79-foot wing span not only boosts the [aircraft's] endurance and range, but also serves as proof-of-concept for the next-generation Predator B aircraft that will be designed for Type-Certification and airspace integration," said Linden Blue, CEO. "The wing was designed to conform to STANAG 4671 [NATO Airworthiness Standard for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) systems], and includes lightning and bird strike protection, non-destructive testing, and advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme environments."

During the flight, Predator B ER Long Wing showcased its ability to launch, climb to 7,500 feet (initial flight test altitude), complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and then land without incident. A subsequent test program will be performed to verify full operational capability.

The aircraft, which was developed on Internal Research and Development (IRAD) funds, has a wing span that is 13-feet longer, thus increasing the aircraft's endurance from 27 hours to more than 40 hours. Additional enhancements include short-field takeoff and landing performance and spoilers on the wings which enable precision automatic landings. The wings also have provisions for leading-edge de-ice, and integrated low- and high-band RF antennas. A previous Predator B ER version with two wing-mounted fuel tanks is currently operational with the U.S. Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper ER.

The long wings are the first components to be produced as part of GA-ASI's Certifiable Predator B (CPB) development project, which will result in a certifiable production aircraft in early 2018. Further hardware and software upgrades planned for CPB will comprise improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance, more robust flight control software, and enhancements allowing operations in adverse weather.