Successful laboratory testing has paved the way for a test flight by year-end of a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator B unmanned air system (UAS) equipped with a new open architecture sensor, control and data management concept developed by Selex Galileo.

The two partners have been working together as General Atomics is keen to demonstrate that its highly successful strike and reconnaissance UAS can be operated with a third-party payload system, while Selex needs to show that its open architecture concept offers such a capability. Both companies want to appeal to customers demanding "payload sovereignty".

Having successfully integrated Selex's Seaspray 7500E radar into the Predator B, the sovereign payload capability demonstration project is now set to conclude in early December, with a live flight demonstration from General Atomics' Gray Butte Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, California, over the Pacific Ocean.

 Italian Predator B - Italian air force
© Italian air force
Italy's air force recently launched operations with the US-built Predator B

Selex chief executive Fabrizio Giulianini said the skyISTAR open architecture concept for medium-altitude, long-endurance and larger systems will also be adapted to smaller aircraft.

It will be flown on Selex's Falco Evo reconnaissance platform in early 2012, and can be adapted to multiple user requirements, Giulianini said at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in London on 14 September.

SkyISTAR is designed to integrate sensors, defensive aids equipment and other systems into a mission management system which, with proprietary algorithms, will "provide the operator with a single, seamless picture of the UAS' environment".

SkyISTAR concept - Selex Galileo 
© Selex Galileo
The skyISTAR architecture can manage data acquired from multiple sensors

Selex senior vice president for unmanned air vehicles, Gianfranco Terrando, added that the Predator B test represents "spiral zero" of a development programme that will see the integration of sensors by Selex and other suppliers, with many platforms: "We are focusing our efforts on managing the data," he added.

General Atomics said the Predator B's segmented avionics and open payload architectures allow payloads to be integrated without the need to modify the aircraft or ground control system software.

Integrators can access aircraft data links, control certain power switching and receive vehicle and sensor data feeds.

Source: Flight International