General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is one step closer to receiving full certification to deploy its MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) for NATO use after successfully completing a flight last week through various classes of non-restricted airspace.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian completed the 275-mile trip from the Laguna Army Airfield in Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., to the Gray Butte Flight Operations facility in Palmdale, Calif., on Aug. 16 after GA-ASI received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly through national airspace.
“This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets NATO airworthiness requirements for UAS,” GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said in a statement. “MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be the first RPA system of its kind with a design-assurance level compliant with international type-certification standards, and can therefore be integrated more easily than legacy RPAs into civil airspace operations around the world.”
GA-ASI first developed its unmanned MQ-9B aircraft in 2012 to fly for over 35 hours and reach altitudes greater than 20,000 feet. General Atomics is the parent of GA-ASI.
A weaponized version of the MQ-9B is under contract for delivery to the UK Royal Air Force, and a maritime patrol variant is being developed to support open-ocean surveillance.
Testing for GA-ASI’s MQ-9B will continue for the next two years with deliveries expected early next decade.