General Atomics Moves Toward Global RPA Flight Certification for MQ-9B SkyGuardian

(Image courtesy: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)

A General Atomics Aeronautical System, Inc.  (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian  remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) was controlled – from takeoff to landing – by an operator using a GA-ASI certifiable ground control station (CGCS), marking the first time a CGCS was used to control an end-to-end flight and the first step in type-certifying the unit. The flight originated from the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground  in Yuma, Arizona.

“Controlling takeoff and landing was the last step in a progression of flight milestones for the CGCS,” says David R. Alexander, president of GA-ASI. “Our vision is that MQ-9B will be the first RPA certified to fly in national and international airspace. To achieve that goal, our GCS needs to be type-certified, as well. Completing an end-to end flight was an important step in achieving that ultimate goal.”

Learn more about type certification

GA-ASI’s MQ-9B is purpose-built to meet both domestic and global airworthiness standards like those established by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization  (NATO). The combined system includes an upgraded GA-ASI Predator B  RPA and the advanced CGCS.

With the MQ-9BA’s 40-hour endurance in mind, GA-ASI designed the CGCS to significantly improve situational awareness and reduce workload and fatigue for the RPA pilot. The ground-based cockpit environment incorporates human-centered, high-definition, touch-screen display technology with improved synthetic vision capabilities and a 270-degree horizon view field spread across on multiple wide-screen graphical overlays.

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

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