Longer wings extend Predator B flight time

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The successful first flight of the Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper Extended Range (ER) Long Wing was announced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) on February 25, 2016.

The aircraft was retrofitted with improved long-endurance wings with greater internal fuel capacity and additional hard points for carrying external stores. The flight occurred on February 18 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Test Facility in Palmdale, California, USA, on a test aircraft.

“Predator B ER’s new 79ft wingspan not only boosts the remotely piloted aircraft’s (RPA) endurance and range, but also serves as proof of concept for the next-generation Predator B aircraft that will be designed for type certification and airspace integration,” said Linden Blue, GA-ASI CEO. “The wing was designed to conform to STANAG 4671 [NATO Airworthiness Standard for RPA systems], and includes lightning and bird-strike protection, non-destructive testing, and advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme environments.”

During the flight, Predator B ER Long Wing demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to 7,500ft (initial flight test altitude), complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and land without incident. A subsequent test program will be conducted to verify full operational capability.

The new wing span is 13ft longer, increasing the aircraft’s endurance from 27 hours to over 40 hours. Additional improvements include short-field take-off and landing performance and spoilers on the wings that enable precision automatic landings. The wings also have provisions for leading-edge de-icing and integrated low- and high-band RF antennas. An earlier version of Predator B ER featuring two wing-mounted fuel tanks is currently operational with the US Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper ER.

March 4, 2016

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