Predator XP Makes Maiden Flight

 - July 17, 2014, 6:50 AM
Production of the Predator UAV will restart, if GA-ASI receives orders for the XP version cleared for export to a wider group of countries. (Photo: GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) conducted the first flight of its Predator XP remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) on June 27 at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground range complex in Arizona. The Predator XP is an unarmed export version of the iconic RPA.

During the 35-minute flight, the Predator XP demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to operational altitude, complete basic airworthiness maneuvers and land “without any discrepancies,” General Atomics said last week during the Farnborough show. The manufacturer will conduct another test program to verify the aircraft’s design, including safety of flight, automatic takeoff and landing, payload and communications testing and beyond line-of-sight satellite communications control.

Castle Dome Airfield, where the manufacturer conducted the first flight, dates to the 1960s and more recently has been developed to support RPA flight-test operations. The runway was extended in 2003 and updated again earlier this year to house a GA-ASI facility dedicated to the development and test of the Predator XP and other models. GA-ASI also plans to use the facility to demonstrate the Predator XP system to international customers.

Based on the RQ-1 Predator A, the XP is fitted with GA-ASI’s Lynx multi-mode radar, high-definition electro-optical video and automatic identification system, with endurance of up to 35 hours. The U.S. government has licensed the RPA for sale to countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South America and Asia, among others, according to GA-ASI.

“This first flight represents a major milestone for GA-ASI’s newest product line designed and developed for our international allies worldwide,” said Frank Pace, GA-ASI president of aircraft systems. “We are now positioned to restart the Predator production line and proceed directly to full production in anticipation of new customer orders.”