General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated (GA-ASI) has begun a series of demonstration flights of its MQ-9 Guardian in Japan.
The commencement of the flights was announced on May 9, 2018 after the initiative was made public in mid-April.
At the time of the initial announcement, GA-ASI said that the MQ-9 Guardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) would be used to conduct maritime surveillance flights in which data and scientific research would be collected.
A company press release said the flights would be operated from the island of Iki, in Nagasaki Prefecture and the Guardian would be in a configuration similar to that flown by the US Department of Homeland Security.
It said the demonstrations would be made up of approximately ten five-hour missions flown from Iki Airport over a three-week period to demonstrate several mission sets to Japanese authorities. Included in these missions are meteorological, disaster relief and oceanic observations, marine accidents and rescue support, and airspace management and support of communications.
GA-ASI said the data gathered during the missions will be given to scientific research institutions and flight data will also be passed to Japanese airspace management organisations for use in the establishment of RPA guidelines and systems when operating in national and international civil airspace.
Mayor Shirikawa of Iki said after the flights began: “We are delighted to host the RPA flight demonstration on our island of Iki. The demonstration is an important milestone for the many peaceful uses of RPAs, including maritime disaster security and maritime resource management’.
GA-ASI said that the series of flights are the first demonstration of a long range RPA by a private company in Japan. The aircraft’s sensors include a long-range maritime surface search radar, stabilised optical and infra-red video camera and an active collision avoidance system, incorporating a short-range airto- air radar. The flights are funded by GA-ASI and utilise company RPA pilots, sensor operators and maintenance personnel.
CEO of GA-ASI Linden Blue said: “We believe that these flights of long-endurance RPAs in Japan’s maritime environment will provide valuable information and we look forward to reviewing the important data gathered from these flights’. In other maritime ISR news from Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reported on April 25, 2018, that the country is proposing the Kawasaki P-1 for a European maritime surveillance aircraft requirement.
France and Germany are studying the development of a maritime surveillance platform and the newspaper reports that discussions between the three governments regarding possible partnerships between Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), Dassault Aviation and Thales, began in 2017.
It is understood that the proposal has the backing of Japan’s Ministry of Defence and a P-1 was displayed at the 2017 Paris Air Show. Nigel Pittaway