GKN Aerospace has signed a long term agreement with General Atomics covering the supply of a ‘fit and forget’ fuel bladder system for the Predator medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (MALE UAS).
These upgraded Predator UAS fuel bladders have been designed and developed by GKN Aerospace working closely with General Atomics. Initial production took place at the GKN Aerospace facility in Portsmouth, UK and then transferred to the company’s Tallassee, Alabama facility in 2010. Over 75 ship sets have been delivered to date. The new contract extends this manufacture, requiring GKN Aerospace to supply a further 100 fuel bladder systems through to the end of 2014. Manufacture will continue at the GKN Aerospace facility in Alabama.
The bladders are being manufactured using the company’s new vacuum forming process and its latest poly-urethane (PU) material, which is extremely durable and lightweight. Vacuum forming this material allows GKN Aerospace to create fuel bladders in complex shapes that fully exploit all available space on the Predator airframe, maximising the fuel load capacity and platform endurance. These developments also produce a bladder system with a lower parts count, simplifying manufacture, bladder installation and system support.
Ron Kato, Vice President and Managing Director, Special Products Group, GKN Aerospace comments: “We are very proud to have been selected to provide what are vital items for the long endurance Predator platform. We have been supplying fuel systems for many decades and for many airframe platforms and invest constantly our research and development activity in this area – allowing us to offer more effective and more environmentally friendly systems. The Predator programme fully exploits all our recent advances in both manufacturing and materials technologies.”
GKN Aerospace is the leading supplier of flexible fuel tanks and systems for unmanned aircraft and manned helicopters and fixed wing aircraft worldwide and provides full maintenance support for proprietary and customer products.