The latest variant to join General Atomics' Predator family of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has outlasted its siblings in the air. The new MQ-9B SkyGuardian from the company's "Type-Certifiable" Predator B product line recently stayed aloft for 48.2 hours, beating the previous endurance record for a Predator-series aircraft by just over two hours.
General Atomics began development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian in 2012, with the first successful flight of the aircraft taking place in November 2016. In a continuation of the test program, an MQ-9B took off from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona on May 16 carrying 6,065 lb (2,751 kg) of fuel.
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Over the next two days, the aircraft flew between 25,000 and 35,000 ft (7,620 and 10,668 m), before landing on May 18 with 280 lb (127 kg) of reserve fuel still on board. The 48.2-hour flight beat the previous Predator endurance record of 46.1 hours set by the Predator XP in February 2015.
Designed to reach altitudes of over 40,000 ft (12,192 m) and fly at airspeeds of up to 210 knots (242 mph, 389 km/h), the SkyGuardian is a "Type-Certifiable" Predator B, which is a version of General Atomics' Reaper platform that has been modified to meet the stringent airworthiness requirements required to operate in non-military airspace and meet NATO airworthiness standards (STANAG-4671) so as to appeal to a wider market.
The Royal Air Force has already committed to purchase the weaponized variant through the Protector program, while a SeaGuardian maritime patrol variant is intended for open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance.
General Atomics plans to deliver the first production MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft next year.
Source: General Atomics