SkyGuardian for NAS demo

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian will demonstrate detect and avoid and command and control datalink systems. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian is to perform a demonstration flight over San Diego, California in 2020 as efforts continue to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the United States’ National Airspace System (NAS).

The demo intends, GA-ASI said, “to tackle key challenges that prevent routine commercial UAS operations in the NAS today, including development, integration and certification of UAS and the technologies required for safe operation with other manned and unmanned aircraft traffic”. The flight will involve the MQ-9B demonstrating detect and avoid (DAA) and command and control datalink systems.

Onboard sensors and additional virtual sensors will simulate UAS use for commercial and public services such as pipeline and rail inspections, agriculture monitoring, topological surveys, wildfire/flood monitoring and maritime surveillance. The MQ- 9B will conduct missions above 10,000ft, GA-ASI said, fully aligned with RTCA DO-365 and DO-366 technical standards for DAA.

Those standards were partly verified and validated by a flight test programme that involved the GA-ASI-built Ikhana, an MQ-9 Predator B operated by the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Last year, Ikhana became the first large UAV to fly in the NAS without a chase aircraft. Mark Broadbent