Drones

MQ-9 Reaper Big Wing sets Predator flight endurance record

MQ-9 Reaper Big Wing sets Pred...
The new Predator B has set a new endurance flight record for the Predator line
The new Predator B has set a new endurance flight record for the Predator line
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The new Predator B has set a new endurance flight record for the Predator line
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The new Predator B has set a new endurance flight record for the Predator line
The Big Wing has a longer wingspan than its predecessor
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The Big Wing has a longer wingspan than its predecessor

The latest version of General Atomics' unmanned Predator drone has set a new endurance record for the aircraft. In a 10-hour improvement over the previous Predator, the company reported its next-generation Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper Big Wing aircraft flew for over 37 hours non-stop while carrying out a simulated reconnaissance mission over California.

The Predator B Big Wing is the latest iteration of the Predator B line, which is one of the mainstay drones of the US Air Force, the RAF, as well as the forces of France, Italy, and the Netherlands. It made its first flight on February 18 at General Atomics' Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California. The Big Wing moniker comes from the aircraft's 79-ft (24-m) wingspan that is 13 ft (4 m) longer than its predecessor. It also boasts a larger internal fuel capacity that boosts flight time from 27 to 42 hours.

In addition to greater flight endurance, the Big Wing has better short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities and active lift spoilers for precision automatic landings. This combines with more hardpoints for carrying weapons and equipment as well as improved flight software, a hardened structure for less fatigue and a better ability to handle combat and adverse weather. Added to this are integrated low- and high-band Radio Frequency (RF) antennae and the option of a leading-edge deicing system.

The Big Wing has a longer wingspan than its predecessor
The Big Wing has a longer wingspan than its predecessor

Today's announcement follows a test flight in which the Big Wing lifted off, flew to its operational altitude, carried out loitering and recon maneuvers, and then landed after a total flight time of 37.5 hours.

The company says that it will continue development of the Big Wing under its Certifiable Predator B (CPB) project with the goal of improving its performance and seeking certification in early 2018.

"This long-endurance flight demonstrates Predator B Big Wing's game-changing potential for providing life-saving persistent [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] in support of U.S. and coalition warfighters," says David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. "Our company continually strives to extend Predator B's already impressive endurance further, pushing the aircraft's capabilities to its full potential."

Source: General Atomics

5 comments
mhpr262
The proportions are bgeinning to look rather odd, with the super long wings and the very short tail.
barrettjet
I think this is great. It gets the job done without risking a pilot. It makes ISIS et al keep their heads down. Next step is a stealth MQ Fighterbomber Reccy.
WilliamButtry
The idea of the bigger wing set allows for slower flight longer flight times more lift better bigger fuel pods and weapons payloads. Also it will thermal lot better to use wind currents to attain higher altitude with less fuel use. And with bigger wings allow smoother slower turns with little loss in altitude. less likely to stall also.
Daishi
PBS did a documentary "Rise of Drones" that talked about the predator and some other stuff that was pretty interesting. This technology combined with the ARGUS platform by BAE systems will allow 24/7 city wide surveillance. It uses 368 mobile phone cameras to record everything.
Drones like this change the surveillance game.
Nostromo47
Everyone likes to think that these drones will offer enhanced ability to do ISR against ISIS and other foreign enemies. But better "24/7 citywide surveillance" also means that the "city" could just as easily be Cleveland or Los Angeles. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have revealed what our own entities such as the NSA would like to do.