Predator UAVs Opening Up to Foreign Sensors and Control

 - September 19, 2011, 4:50 AM
New payloads from foreign suppliers can now be added to the Predator/Reaper series of UAVs (Photo: GA-ASI)

A cooperation between General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) and Selex Galileo will enable the integration and control of non-U.S. sensors on the Predator and Reaper UAV series. Selex Galileo has developed a “platform agnostic” open architecture named SkyIstar for unmanned aerial systems. The Anglo-Italian company will now integrate the SeaSpray 7500E radar on a Predator-B. Flight tests from GA-ASI’s test facility in Southern California are scheduled for early December.

“GA-ASI has recognized that foreign customers require full control over data collection and management,” said Fabrizio Giulianini, CEO of Selex Galileo. Thanks to the SkyIstar development, it should be relatively easy for third-party sensors to interface with the Predator’s navigation and flight control systems, he added. GA-ASI president Frank Pace said that the company’s implementation of the open-payload architecture “greatly reduces integration complexity.” Payloads can be integrated without the need to modify the UAS or GCS (ground control station) software, yet integrators can access aircraft datalinks and communications buses, control certain aircraft power switching, and receive vehicle and sensor data feeds, GA-ASI stated.

Giulianini said that Selex Galileo would modify its own Falco EVO UAV with the SkyIstar system early next year. But the company is also pitching SkyIstar for inclusion on other medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, such as the forthcoming Anglo-French Telemos project. According to Selex Galileo, a key aspect of SkyIstar is the mission management system, which uses proprietary algorithms to fuse the data from radar, EO/IR, Sigint (signals intelligence) and/or defensive aids and other systems onboard the UAV.

Selex Galileo is part of the Finmeccanica group, along with Alenia, which has developed and flown its own MALE demonstrator named Sky-Y. However, the Italian Air Force chose to buy the Predator-B, and has recently flown it over Libya in the NATO operation. Nevertheless, Alenia is still investing in the Sky-Y. It will resume flight tests later this month to explore network capabilities and operations in unrestricted airspace.