First ferry flight for General Avionics’ MQ-9 Predator

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that one of its MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has completed its first ferry flight. On January 8, 2020, the unmanned prop-driven craft flew from GA-ASI’s Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, California, to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico instead of being dismantled and shipped.

Because RPAs and other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are becoming increasingly common, there is an increasing effort to make it possible for them to work in the National Air Space (NAS) with civilian aircraft instead of only operating in narrowly restricted areas. As part of this, GA-ASI says that it has been flying several flights in the NAS as the company works with the US FAA and other bodies to make RPA flight mainstream.

According to GA-ASI, the January flight was carried out using GA-ASI and Holoman aircrews to fly the MQ-9 to its final destination. This was more direct than packing up the drone, shipping it and reassembling it at its destination, and saved 142 man-hours in putting the aircraft into service after arrival.

The latest iteration of the MQ-9 was designed to meet FAA and NATO STANAG-4671 standards to attain US and international airworthiness certifications. In part, it does this by making the MQ-9 Predator B RPA and Cockpit Ground Control Station (GCS) modular so they can be modified to meet local type-certification. In addition, the airframe, Detect and Avoid (DAA) avionics, and software have been hardened to better meet global airworthiness standards.

“This is the first time that team Holloman has taken delivery of a new MQ-9 by ferry flight,” says Colonel Casey Tidgewell, 49th Operations Group commander. “It’s critically important because flying outside of our training area helps normalize RPA flight inside the NAS and provides broader aviation experience for our instructors. I could not be more proud of our operations and maintenance professionals that made this happen.”

Source: General Atomics

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