A mockup of the Predator B ER, which features longer wings for an extended range. Image courtesy General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.
WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- The Predator B remotely piloted aircraft, known as the MQ-9 Reaper, has successfully performed its first flight with extended wings for greater endurance.
The flight took place last month at Gray Butte Flight Test Facility in Palmdale, Calif., using a test aircraft, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said.
"Predator B ER's [extended range] new 79-foot wing span not only boosts the RPA's 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's chied executive officer. "The wing was designed to conform to STANAG 4671, and includes lightning and bird strike protection, non-destructive testing, and advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme environments."
STANAG 4671 is NATO's airworthiness standard for RPA systems.
GA-ASI said that during the flight the Predator B ER Long Wing demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to an initial flight test altitude of 7,500 feet, complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and land without incident. Later tests will be conducted to verify the aircraft's full operational capability.
The new wingspan is 13 feet longer than before and increases aircraft endurance from 27 hours to more than 40 hours. Other improvements to the drone include short-field takeoff and landing performance and spoilers on the wings for precision automatic landings.
GA-ASI said the long wings are the first components to be produced as part of GA-ASI's Certifiable Predator B (CPB) development project, which will lead to a certifiable production aircraft in early 2018.