General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that it has begun a series of demonstration flights with its MQ-9 Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The flights, which are being performed for an audience of representatives from a multitude of European countries, are being hosted by the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and staged out of Larissa Air Base in Greece. The aim of these flights is to showcase the maritime surveillance capabilities of the MQ-9, as well as the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid (DAA) system.
The MQ-9 unmanned aerial system (UAS) is equipped with a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition/Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This comprehensive array of sensors provides real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles. A Raytheon SeaVue surface-search radar provides continuous tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks.
The DAA system developed by GA-ASI consists of an air-to-air radar integrated with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities. These traffic surveillance and collision avoidance radar systems act as critical safety features for a large UAS flying through controlled airspace.
The MQ-9 has also been equipped with GEO satellite connectivity from SATCOM operator SES. This will provide the unmanned aircraft with a secure high capacity datalink, enabling real-time transmission of sensor data and extending its effective operational range far beyond that of conventional line-of-sight datalinks.
Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI, said: “We appreciate the HAF’s support with our customer demonstrations. GA-ASI is highlighting the maritime surveillance and civil airspace integration capabilities of our unmanned aircraft for our European customers. Our long-endurance RPA (25-40 hours per sortie, depending on configuration) will be on display and provide insight into the importance of maritime patrol, as well as showcase our DAA avionics system that will support our goal of flying RPA in civil airspace.”
An official from the HAF commented: “The HAF looks forward to seeing the results of this demonstration. In addition to defense capabilities, these aircraft provide maritime patrol and EEZ monitoring, border surveillance, support for search and rescue efforts, and over-watch of forest fire response efforts.”
Nicole Robinson, Senior Vice President, Global Government at SES Networks, said: “With our global satellite fleet, SES has been supporting the critical needs of GA-ASI and their government customers who have operated these aircraft for close to two decades. We are proud to support this demonstration effort for the Hellenic Air Force as part of our long-standing relationship with General Atomics.”