New MQ-9 Block 1-plus drone makes first flight. With brand new cool wigtip antennas for secure communications

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

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.