Earlier this month, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) conducted a long-endurance flight of its Predator XP remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Launching from the company’s Castle Dome Flight Operations Facility at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, on 6 February, the Predator XP touched down again on 8 February after a flight of more than 40 hours, during which the air vehicle remained at altitudes above 10,000ft.
“This flight was a landmark event for Predator XP in that it truly demonstrated the long-endurance capability of our latest RPA,” said Frank W Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “In addition, it was a new company record for our aircraft.”
Predator XP has been developed by GA-ASI (Stands UM-32, UM-62) as an advanced version of its combat proven MQ-1 Predator RPA, which has logged more than 2 million flight hours since 1994. Externally, the XP version differs primarily by having upturned, drag-reducing winglets. The vehicle includes triple-redundant avionics, satellite communications for beyond-line-of- sight data transfer and control, and automatic take-off and landing.
It can be equipped with a variety of sensors, including GA-ASI’s own Lynx multimode radar that provides synthetic aperture radar (SAR), ground moving target indicator (GMTI) and sea search capabilities. Predator XP can also mount a full-motion video camera, operating in both infrared and visible wavelengths, and for the maritime surveillance role can be outfitted with Automatic Identification System (AIS) equipment.
GA-ASI says the Predator XP is now in production, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2016.
The variant was developed with exports in mind, and is not intended for armed missions. New systems with lower US export restrictions have allowed GA-ASI to offer the RPA to countries in the MENA region, South America and Asia.
At IDEX 2013, the UAE announced that it was to procure the Predator XP – GA-ASI partnering with the International Golden Group, with whom an MoU was signed in 2011 to pursue opportunities in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sector in the UAE.