General Atomics and Spain’s SENER Aerospacial

said Tuesday they are integrating a new NATO sensor Pod on to the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for European sensors.

The companies started collaborating in 2008 to provide MQ-9s to Spain, adapted for the requirements of the Spanish Armed Forces.

A model of the new General Atomics and SENER Aerospacial NATO Pod to be integrated on to the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle. (Photo: SENER Aerospacial).

The companies said this is their latest joint development effort, with SENER developing and building the pod while GA Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) will integrate it onto the aircraft line “to increase its configuration and payload options.”

GA explained the NATO Pod will allow European senor suppliers to be provided a standard size, weight and power as well as an interface control document to the aircraft system to better integrate payloads.

SENER underscored it is designing the pod to qualify for a wide set of certification base requirements to fulfill the majority of European certification agency demands.

The companies said they have thus far completed the system definition and specification phase, conceptual and preliminary design phases, and finished the critical design review at the beginning of the summer. They are currently working on the detail design phase.

GA noted pod development is driven by the company’s initiative to provide customers with a customizable pod to carry sovereign, cross-domain intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors that can be integrated onto MQ-9A and MQ-9B RPA systems.

“This offers our customers a broader range of ISR capabilities and makes ISR-system upgrades faster. Interface standardization also allows sovereign containment of payload hardware and data by customers, when required,” Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI, said in a statement.

GA said it is working with European suppliers to add sensor options to the new payload pod that meet NATO airworthiness standards.

“The NATO Pod is a flexible, scalable, certifiable, aerodynamic and low-cost enclosure that enables customers to add sovereign sensor capabilities developed in their respective countries using a common set of interfaces to the aircraft system. This approach reduces integration time and cost,” the companies said.

“Since the beginning in 2008, the relationship between GA-ASI and SENER has been based on the existence of a common corporate philosophy where the technological component represents a fundamental link. This has led to an alliance in which the development of value-added products and technology by SENER has been applied to meet the demanding needs of GA-ASI over the years and, particularly, now with the NATO Pod that will be integrated onto the MQ-9 line,” Andrés Sendagorta, president of the SENER Group, added.