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IDEX 2023: GA-ASI and Insitu add STOL and VTOL capabilities

Illustration of GA-ASI MQ-9B with STOL wing kit. (Janes/Akshara Parakala)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) presented its MQ-9B short take-off and landing (STOL) wing kit and Insitu exhibited its ‘Flares' vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) kit for the Integrator unmanned aerial system (UAS) at IDEX 2023 show, which was held from 20 to 24 February in Abu Dhabi.

The MQ-9B STOL kit has a different airframe structure to the baseline MQ-9B, with untapered straight wings and aft-swept wingtips, a larger V-tail, and a smoother area progression at the wing-fuselage intersection. The wing kit enables the aircraft to operate from unimproved airstrips as opposed to the semi-improved airstrip operations of the standard MQ-9B.

GA-ASI spokesperson Mark Brinkley told Janes that the MQ-9B STOL resembles features of the STOL-capable Mojave unmanned aircraft system (UAS), and that the Mojave will be the proof of concept.

According to the company, the MQ-9B with STOL kit requires a take-off run of 300 m and features a new landing gear, and larger low-pressure tyres to support taxiing in dirty, muddy, and rainy conditions.

Brinkley said the design work on the MQ-9B STOL kit started in 2022 and is being designed based on the inputs from the Mojave UAS. The project is keeping the environmental and operating conditions of the Indo-Pacific region in mind, Brinkley added.

A press release issued by GA-ASI in May 2022 says “GA-ASI began STOL development in 2017 as part of its Mojave initiative. STOL capability was initially flown on a modified Gray Eagle Extended Range platform in 2021, but now the company will begin developing STOL on the MQ-9B, a platform already selected by the UK Royal Air Force, the Belgium Ministry of Defence, and the Japan Coast Guard”.

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