On Sept. 5, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), announced the successful first flight of the MQ-9 Block 1-plus. The new version of the world’s most famous drone has taken place on May 24, at the company’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, “with no discrepancies.”
The MQ-9 Block 1-plus brings a capability enhancement over the Block 1 configuration, which has already logged more than 420,000 flight hours across all customers.
It features increased electrical power by means of a new high-capacity starter generator and backup generator to support all flight critical functions, secure communications, auto land, increased Gross Takeoff Weight (GTOW), weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration capabilities.
As soon as the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) completes development, testing and Milestone C decision (that authorizes production of prototypes that are likely to satisfy the operational requirements), the aircraft will be designated MQ-9 Block 5.
The Block 5 will feature several new communications capabilities including dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas, allowing for simultaneous communications between multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground parties; secure data links; and an increased data transmission capacity.
Additionally, the drone will be given a new reinforced trailing arm main landing gear, enabling the aircraft to carry heavier payloads or additional fuel.
Image credit: GAAS