General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced on 25 May that its MQ-9B SKYGUARDIAN remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), a certifiable variant of the company’s PREDATOR B airframe has set a new company record for endurance.
Configured in a ‘clean wing’ mode with an ISR mission fit, the company-owned aircraft took off at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ, on 16 May with 6,065lbs of internal fuel. The aircraft flew between 25,000-35,000ft for the duration of the mission and landed 48.2 hours later with 280lbs of reserve fuel.
“This long-endurance flight is not only a significant achievement for our MQ-9B SKYGUARDIAN aircraft but also a very timely landmark event for our company as we celebrate 25 years of aviation innovation this year,” Linden Blue, CEO at GA-ASI, commented. “GA-ASI continues to push the envelope with versatile, reliable, cost-effective, and combat-proven RPA systems and sensors, and this latest feat is a testament to our industry legacy.”
SKYGUARDIAN has been designed to operate under the stringent airworthiness requirements of non-military airspace. The weaponised variant of the system is being acquired by the Royal Air Force under the PROTECTOR program. A maritime patrol variant, SEAGUARDIAN, is designed to support open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance. All three variants are designed to fly for in excess of 35h, with airspeeds up to 210kt and reach altitudes of more than 40,000 feet. GA-ASI is currently building three company-owned aircraft and plans to deliver the first production aircraft next year.