General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), has recently completed the longest mission of a Predator Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The flight performed by a company built launched on February 6 and landed on February 8, 2015 during a 40-plus hour flight conducted at GA-ASI’s Castle Dome Flight Operations Facility located at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.

“This flight truly demonstrated the long- endurance capability of our latest RPA

During the flight, the Predator XP RPA validated its long-endurance capability by flying at 10,000 feet for greater than 40 hours. The RPA that flew the mission is a production representation aircraft designed and built on Internal Research and Development (IRAD) funds. Predator XP is currently in production, with the first production aircraft to be delivered in 2016. The UAE, considered to be one of the lead customers for this model is planning to buy 10 such aircraft.

“This flight was a landmark event for Predator XP in that it truly demonstrated the long- endurance capability of our latest RPA,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “In addition, it was a new company record for our aircraft.” Predator XP, an advanced derivative of the mission-proven MQ-1 Predator RPA that has accumulated over two million flight hours since 1994.

The visible differences between Predator and Predator XP are the extended wings, fitted with winglets added to the wing tips, and the forward EO payload assembly mounted under the nose.
The visible differences between Predator and Predator XP are the extended wings, fitted with winglets added to the wing tips, and the forward EO payload assembly mounted under the nose.

Predator XP is an updated version of the company’s flagship Predator RPA that has been licensed by the U.S. Government for sale to a broader customer base to include countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South America, and Asia. In October 2014  the U.S. Government has granted GA-ASI a ‘DSP-5’ export license allowing the company to offer Predator XP to the Government of India. The company is also discussing the potential sale with local industry.

Beyond its long endurance, the aircraft’s distinctive features include wingtip winglets and enhanced payload assembly under the nose. Advanced capabilities include a Satellite Communications (SATCOM) data link; Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS); a full-motion video camera (optical and infrared); GA-ASI’s Lynx   Multi-mode Radar with ground imaging (Synthetic Aperture Radar/ SAR), maritime surface search, and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) modes; an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for maritime patrol; and triple-redundant avionics. Following the export restrictions imposed by the US government, unlike the Predator models used by the CIA and Air Force, or Gray Eagle used by the U.S. Army, Predator XP is not designed to carry weapons.

A family of drones from General Atomics - forward: Predator C 'Avenger', far left - MQ-1 Predator I and far right: MQ-9 Reaper.
A family of drones from General Atomics – forward: Predator C ‘Avenger’, far left – MQ-1 Predator I and far right: MQ-9 Reaper.