General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) conducted initial flight tests of a new brushless generator on its GRAY EAGLE ER [Extended Range] (GE-ER) UAS last month. The generator performed aircraft ground and flight tests for over 44 hours, testing up to maximum electrical power output across the full GE-ER flight envelope and at engine power levels from idle up to maximum rated thrust, the company announced on 9 June.
Marking an important milestone in continued development, the tests pave the way towards upgrading the GE-ER fleet with generators that will significantly improve reliability and dramatically reduce platform sustainment costs. The new generator also provides electrical power to support expanding mission scenarios for the UAS.
The brushless generator is designed as a GE-ER drop-in replacement for the current alternator, to help make the upgrade seamless for maintainers in the field. The brushless design eliminates scheduled depot service for brush replacement every 300 hours on the current alternator, reducing depot, shipping, and spares inventory costs. The new generator system can provide up to 14kW of power – a 50+% increase over the current system – and provide up to 10kW for sensors and payloads required for missions in a Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) environment.
“Reliability and durability are always our top priorities,” commented company President, David R Alexander. “Our investment in the brushless generator resets the service life to 2,500 hours, which is the same as the engine. This new system for the GRAY EAGLE ER reduces soldier maintenance and sustainment costs to the Army by eliminating intermediate maintenance, and the increased power meets the needs of MDO’s advanced sensors and payloads.”
These payloads include new suites of advanced sensors now in development, such as the Multi-Domain Sensing System (MDSS), which enables GE-ER to employ long-range sensing and targeting for the Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) and Future Vertical Lift (FVL) ecosystems that form part of MDO. The generator can support all modes of flight simultaneously, including Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW), as well as communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensing and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities.
An internally-funded programme in cooperation with sister company General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, the generator will enter a government qualification testing programme this summer, in conjunction with GA-ASI’s new HFE 2.0 engine. Initial results demonstrate a significant leap in overall performance, as General Atomics continues to push the limits of aircraft power-producing technology that will have lasting impact on the GE-ER fleet.