General Atomics has awarded a contract to GKN Aerospace for the supply of additional fit and forget fuel bladder systems for the Predator medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (MALE UAS).
Under the $5m contract, the company will manufacture and supply an additional 100 fuel bladder systems to General Atomics.
The fuel bladders have been initially designed and developed by GKN Aerospace in collaboration with General Atomics at its facility in Portsmouth, UK, but the production was later moved to its Tallassee, Alabama facility in the US, in 2010.
GKN Aerospace Special Products Group vice-president and managing director Ron Kato said the company has been supplying fuel systems for several decades and for many airframe platforms and constantly invest on research and development activity in this area, which enables it to offer more effective and environmentally friendly systems.
”The Predator programme fully exploits all our recent advances in both manufacturing and materials technologies,” Kato said.
The bladders are being manufactured using the company’s new vacuum forming process and its latest durable and lightweight poly-urethane (PU) material.
Vacuum forming facilitates creation of fuel bladders in complex shapes that fully exploits all available space on the Predator airframe, thereby maximising its fuel load capacity and performance during long endurance reconnaissance missions.
More than 75 upgraded Predator UAS fuel bladders have been delivered to date by the company to General Atomics.
Work under the contract is scheduled to be carried out at the company’s Alabama facility, and deliveries will be completed by the end of 2014.
Designed for reconnaissance and forward observation roles, the Predator UAV has been used by the US Air Force (USAF) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia, since 1995.
The drone is also operated by the US Navy, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Italian Air Force.
Image: A Predator unmanned aircraft system in flight. Photo: GKN Aerospace © 2014.