General Atomics is seeking an Air Force airworthiness assessment for its Certifiable Predator B unmanned aerial system (UAS) similar to the one being provided for Textron’s [TXT] Scorpion.
General Atomics spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz said Wednesday the company is currently filling out a questionnaire for the potential agreement, which is formally known as a non-Defense Department Military Aircraft (NDMA) Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Air Force Technical Airworthiness Authority (TAA) Jorge Gonzalez told reporters Tuesday General Atomics returning the questionnaire will formally start the CRADA NDMA process.
Kasitz said if the company were to return the questionnaire, the Air Force would still have to approve the application. General Atomics, she said, would also have to decide whether to move forward as companies pay for these airworthiness assessments.
General Atomics developed Certifiable Predator B to be capable of operations in non-segregated airspace, meet similar design and build safety standards as manned aircraft and have systems that are equal to the “see and avoid” capability of an on-board pilot, such as a detect and avoid system. Certifiable Predator B will meet the requirements of European customers and, in cooperation with the FAA, will subsequently meet United States domestic airworthiness certification standards, according to General Atomics.
Certifiable Predator B’s 79 foot wingspan accommodates an increase in endurance from 27 to over 40 hours. The wings integrate two additional hard points, increasing the number of external stores/payload-carrying stations to nine with four under each wing and one under the centerline.
Since the NDMA office opened in June at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, these NDMA CRADAs have become a popular potential endorsement for companies seeking a way to spur international sales of non-military aircraft. The Air Force also believes it can use them to discover cutting-edge technologies and manufacturing techniques that companies are putting into modern aircraft.
Air Force NDMA Team Lead Robert FitzHarris said Tuesday the service is also setting up a potential CRADA for the T-50A that Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Korea Aerospace are teaming to offer for the Air Force’s T-X trainer program. FitzHarris said the CRADA for Lockheed Martin is currently under review by the company’s lawyers and that he was unsure when the deal would be finalized.
Gonzalez said a fourth company has expressed interest in a potential CRADA, but he was unwilling to say which company. FitzHarris said 10 companies expressed interest in “specifically moving forward” with a CRADA at a recent industry day. FitzHarris said Raytheon [RTN] has not approached the Air Force about a potential CRADA for its T-100 that it is offering for T-X. Raytheon is partnering with Lenoardo, Honeywell [HON] and CAE USA for the T-100 T-X offering.
Gonzalez said the NDMA office is capable of doing airworthiness assessments for helicopters and larger unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in addition to traditional manned aircraft. He said the Air Force would probably not do assessments for “micro UAVs.” General Atomics developed the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs for the Air Force. FitzHarris said the NDMA office is capable of “perhaps” performing up to three airworthiness assessments at once and could possibly perform seven assessments in one year.
The Air Force inked its deal with Textron for a Scorpion airworthiness assessment in July (Defense Daily, July 20). Textron is still searching for its first Scorpion buyer.