Slowly but surely, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are entering the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) despite a regulatory regime that was previously considered prohibitive to all but government agencies and research institutions. Unmanned aircraft have flown for the first time commercially in remote Arctic airspace, and companies are considering or have already begun the process of obtaining FAA airworthiness certification of their UAS designs.
An MQ-1 Predator UAV supported firefighters in their efforts to control the huge California Rim Fire in August-September, according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The company noted that the UAV’s more-than-24-hour endurance offered a “value-added capability” over helicopters, which ground commanders had relied on previously but are required to refuel every two hours.
Even as French aircrews began training in the U.S. on the Reaper UAS, EADS Cassidian announced that it had received a one-year extension to its support contract for the Harfang UAS that the French air force intends to replace with the American drone. Cassidian also noted that the similar Heron UAS operated by the German air force and supported by the company has logged 15,000 hours over Afghanistan. The Germans are also considering a Reaper buy as a replacement for the Israeli-origin UAVs.
General Atomics has demonstrated electronic attack capability on an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft fitted with a Northrop Grumman jamming pod. A test flight took place during a U.S. Marine Corps weapons and tactics instructor (WTI) course in April, the results of which have only now been made public.
The Pentagon approved full-rate production of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle multi-role unmanned aircraft on July 26. That same day, manufacturer General Atomics reported the first flight of an improved version of the aircraft that it will demonstrate to the U.S. Army later this year.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced new features on the sensors available for the Predator/Reaper series. The company’s Lynx Block 20A multimode radar now has a “VideoSAR” software system and the ability to auto cross-cue to an EO/IR sensor.
Europe should stop trying to build a “me-too” version of the Reaper Male unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and concentrate instead on a stealthy unmanned combat air system (UCAS), because the U.S. will not export that technology. That was the advice offered at the Paris Air Show yesterday by Frank Pace, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (Hall 3 Stand A82).
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced a partnership with Canadian software house OMX, in connection with that country’s joint unmanned surveillance and target acquisition system (Justas) requirement. GA-ASI is already teamed with simulation specialist CAE to offer the Predator B and/or Predator C Avenger to Canada.
Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, Okla., the state’s largest single-site employer with some 20,000 civilian employees, is preparing for a lead role in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The U.S. industry and government committee that was formed to define performance standards enabling unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to fly in unrestricted airspace will break into separate groups focused on component aspects of UAS because of concern over the committee’s slow progress.