SAN DIEGO - General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed the first flight of the Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) on September 25. It is the fourth MQ-9B SkyGuardian air vehicle - the first three MQ-9B air vehicles are company-owned assets supporting the certification qualification.
The first Protector RPAS, known within GA-ASI as UK1, will be used to support system testing as part of a combined UK Ministry of Defence, U.S. Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Upon completion of this initial testing, UK1 will be delivered to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence in the summer of 2021, but will remain in the USA to complete the Royal Air Force’s test and evaluation program.
MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPAS. The RPAS is available as the SkyGuardian, the maritime SeaGuardian (fitted with a multimode 360-degree field-of-regard Maritime Patrol Radar and optional sonobuoy capability) or, as with the UK Protector, in a special customer specified configuration. The first MQ-9B customer delivery will be to the UK, but the RPAS has also been selected by the Belgian Defense and Australian Defence Force, with significant interest from customers throughout the world.
MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPAS to meet NATO’s stringent airworthiness type-certification standard (STANAG 4671). STANAG certification will enable SkyGuardian, SeaGuardian and other MQ-9B variants to operate in civil airspace and better perform border patrol, fire detection and firefighting support, maritime patrol, and resource monitoring missions. MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) to enhance safety of operations in civil and military airspace. The MQ-9B is built for adverse-weather performance with lightning protection, a damage tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system.