General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has used its second full-scale MQ-9B to conduct successful lightning tests at its facility in Poway, California.
The tests were conducted last month jointly between engineers from GA-ASI and NTS Pittsfield, a company involved in the development of sophisticated lightning protection systems for the aerospace industry. MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s latest evolution of its multi-mission Predator B fleet of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The same lightning protection technology will be used by GA-ASI for its proposed MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling tanker for the U.S. Navy.
“One of the important design goals for MQ-9B is to deliver an RPA that can be certified to fly in national airspace,” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “The successful completion of these lightning tests is an extremely important step towards achieving airworthiness certification in segregated airspace.”
A scaled lightning current was injected onto the aircraft structure, simulating a direct lightning strike. The current flowed along the aircraft structure and exited from a predetermined return location. Results from this test verified the effectiveness of the lightning protection design for the MQ-9B.
GA-ASI has named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian while the maritime surveillance variant is called SeaGuardian. MQ-9B is a certifiable (STANAG 4671) version of the company’s MQ-9 Predator B product line. Its development is the result of a five-year company-funded effort to deliver an RPA that can meet the airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities, including the UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) and the U.S. FAA.
A weaponized variant of the system is being acquired by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) under the PROTECTOR RG Mk 1 program.