Military, Unmanned

U.K. Moving to Certify General Atomics Protector Drone for Civil Airspace

By Frank Wolfe | September 12, 2019
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An MQ-9B SkyGuardian. Photo: General Atomics

The United Kingdom is moving toward certifying the General Atomics Protector RG Mk1 drone to fly in civil airspace to perform security-related and disaster response missions, such as responding to fires and floods.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) — a General Atomics affiliate — said on Sept. 11 that the company had signed a direct commercial sale contract with the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) to complete test and evaluation activities required to certify the Protector for flight in civil airspace.

The contract also covers X-band satellite communications system verification, training material development and logistics planning, according to General Atomics.

As part of the effort to ensure that the Protector can safely fly in civilian airspace, the Royal Air Force is working with General Atomics to integrate a detect and avoid (DAA) system on Protector, said RAF Group Capt. Lyndon Jones, the Protector program director.

The DAA system has a “Due Regard” air-to-air radar and processor, integrated with Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Protector RG Mk1 is also to have all-weather performance capability with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system, according to General Atomics.

Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI, said that the company has finished more than 100 qualification test flights using two company-owned MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, the baseline model that will become the Protector when delivered to the RAF in the early 2020s.

The RAF is to buy at least 16 Protector drones to replace its fleet of MQ-9 Reapers.

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