UAV Ground Control Station

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
San Diego, CA

The U.S. Air Force’s new Block 50 Ground Control Station (GCS) – developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) – for the first time controlled an MQ-9 Reaper® on January 8th from the GA-ASI Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif.

The Block 50 GCS cockpit for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) is designed with improved capabilities through an optimized Human Machine Interface (HMI) that significantly enhances aircrew situational awareness and allows for single seat operations. It integrates multi-level security feeds with onboard sensors to display a comprehensive picture of the battlespace and incorporates improved information assurance capabilities that protect against cybersecurity risks.

The design of the Block 50 provides separation of flight critical components to increase flight safety posture and enable rapid testing and integration of new mission capabilities.

According to General Atomics, features of the new Block 50 GCS include:

  • An intuitive glass cockpit design that reduces operator workload and increases effectiveness of mission execution through electronic checklists and integrated mission data information displays;

  • Demonstrated Single Seat operations;

  • An increase in modularity and interface definition to aid in overcoming Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS);

  • One-deep line-replaceable unit (LRU) access to reduce maintenance down time and increase operational availability (Ao); and

  • A new Multi-Level Secure (MLS) Integrated Communication System (ICS) for improved situational awareness, leveraging an upgraded network infrastructure for sharing information throughout a globally connected GCS and Squadron Operating Center (SOC) network.

Designated MQ-9 Reaper® by its U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force customers, the turboprop-powered, multi-mission remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) is actually a variation of the highly successful Predator B UAV. First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with the company's battle-proven Predator RPA. Predator B has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS, can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 3,850 pound (1746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1361 kilograms) of external stores. Powered by the flight-certified and proven Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC), Predator B is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture.

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