General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced the successful second endurance flight of its Predator® B Extended Range (ER) RPA, an advanced derivative of the mission-proven Predator B RPA that has accumulated over 800,000 flight hours since 2001. The flight launched on June 17 and landed on June 18.
“This flight was a significant milestone for Predator B ER in that it closes out its Phase 1 flight test period,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “The entire RPA system was successfully tested from start to finish, including flying a real-world representative mission with significant loiter time, and then returning to base.”
During the flight, Predator B ER demonstrated its ability to carry an external fuel tank on each wing and showed the utility of a new fuel management system which ensures fuel and thermal balance amongst all fuel sources, including the external tanks, the wing, and the fuselage. Additionally, the aircraft demonstrated its Alcohol Water Injection (AWI) system, which provides tremendous value by shortening the required runway takeoff length, especially at higher gross takeoff weights, higher altitude take-offs, and on hot days. AWI also improves climb out performance and fuel efficiency.
Additional testing will be conducted into 2015 to validate other mission profiles and aircraft configurations.
GA-ASI introduced Predator B ER in April 2012 in an effort to extend Predator B’s already impressive endurance and range greatly while increasing its operational flexibility further. The aircraft first took flight in February of this year, and the company is currently under contract with the U.S. Air Force to build 38 Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® RPA under the ER option that optimizes the aircraft for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with a projected increase in endurance from 27 to 33-35 hours by adding two external fuel tanks to its existing wings and heavy-weight landing gear to accommodate an increase in maximum gross takeoff weight. At the same time, GA-ASI is using Internal Research and Development (IRAD) funds to develop an add-on ER option that optimizes the aircraft for multi-purpose missions with a projected increase in endurance from 27 to 42 hours for ISR-only by replacing its current fuel-filled 66-foot wings with 79-foot wings. Completion of the first fuel-filled, longer wing is expected this summer, with the first test flight to follow before the end of the year.