Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center partnered with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc, (GA-ASI) to demonstrate technologies that would expand the capabilities of remotely operated, uninhabited aircraft to perform high-altitude earth science missions. To accomplish the task, GA-ASI developed an enlarged version of its Predator reconnaissance aircraft, called the Predator B®, including an extended-wingspan Altair version for NASA, to meet these requirements.
GA-ASI’s task under NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Joint Sponsored Research Agreement called for the San Diego firm to develop and demonstrate technical performance and operational capabilities that would meet the needs of the science community. As joint partners in the project, which covered flight validation, as well as development of the aircraft, NASA’s Office of Aerospace Technology was investing approximately $10 million, while GA-ASI was contributing additional funds, with about $8 million earmarked for the Altair project. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2grd9RVS1Ek
The first Predator B prototype, aircraft 001, logged its first flight on 2 February 2001 from the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flight operations facility at El Mirage, California. After an initial series of airworthiness test flights and downtime for various software and systems upgrades, the Predator B flew a second series of flight tests in mid-summer, 2001, aimed at expansion of its flight envelope and validation of its autonomous flight capabilities. The prototype reached a maximum sustainable altitude of 48,300 feet during one of those flights over the Edwards Air Force Base test range.
The US Air Force proposed the MQ-9 system in response to the Department of Defense request for Global War on Terrorism initiatives. It was larger and more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and was designed to go after time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets. The “M” is the Department of Defense designation for multi-role and “Q” means unmanned aircraft system. The “9” refers to the series of purpose-built remotely piloted aircraft systems. In June 2003, the Air Combat Command Commander approved the MQ-9 Concept of Operations.
The first production MQ-9A had been built by late 2002, at which time three more were under construction, with 3-4 expected to follow in 2003 and full production of 9-15/year to be reached in 2004. Another version of the Predator B, with a 20-ft wing extension, called the Altair, started flying in late 2002.
The fifth Predator B was completed in June 2004 and a sharp increase in output was expected afterwards. The configuration has a length of 36 feet and a wingspan of 68 feet. It was not reported whether or not the extended wingspan version would enter into service with the USAF, though the aircraft was to be used by NASA, who had supported its development.
On 14 September 2006 the Air Force chief of staff announced “Reaper” had been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle previously referred to as Predator B. The Air Force was the Department of Defense’s executive agent for designating and naming military aerospace vehicles. In the case of the Reaper, Gen. T. Michael Moseley made the final decision after an extensive nomination and review process, coordinated with the other services. “The name Reaper is one of the suggestions that came from our Airmen in the field. It’s fitting as it captures the lethal nature of this new weapon system,” General Moseley said.
Wingspan: 66 ft (20.1168m)
Fuselage: 36 ft (10.9728m)
Weight: 10,000 lb (4536 kg)
Altitude: 50,000 ft
Endurance: 30+ hr
Payload: Internal – 800 lb (363 kg)
External – 3,000 lb (1361 kg)
Powerplant: Honeywell TPE 331-10T
Air Speed: Over 220 kn
Customer: U.S. Air Force
Redundant, fault-tolerant avionics
Remotely piloted or fully autonomous
SAR, EO/IR and ESM payload capacity
GPS and INS
6 wing stations for external carriage of payloads
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