General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has successfully completed the maiden flight test of its second MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the YBC02, at the Laguna Army Airfield in Yuma Proving Grounds in the US.
YBC02 features advanced capabilities such as lightning protection, an upgraded avionics and software suite, and a de-icing system.
The features have been added on to the second unmanned system as part of MQ-9B’s roadmap to become the first RPA to be certified to fly in civil airspace.
GA-ASI Aircraft Systems president David R Alexander said: “We’re very pleased to have our second MQ-9B aircraft completed and flying.
“MQ-9B development continues to move forward on schedule as we look forward to our first customer delivery in the early 2020s.”
The upcoming test scheduled for the YBC02 RPA system includes testing of the flight envelope expansion, certified redundant control module, and certifiable ground control station (C-GCS), as well as flight controller updates.
Being acquired by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of the service’s Protector RG Mk1 programme, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial system is the latest variant of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B RPA fleet.
The aircraft has been developed under a five-year, company-funded effort to meet the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of various military and civil authorities.
In December, GA-ASI’s first MQ-9B SkyGuardian conducted a flight test to demonstrate the automatic take-off and landing capability using satellite communication. A trans-Atlantic flight from the US to the RAF Fairford base in the UK was carried out in July.