Marconi Avionics has teamed with General Atomics and Bombardier Services to offer unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) capable of meeting future UK Ministry of Defence (MoD)surveillance and communications relay requirements.

Proposals will be based around the General Atomics Predator UAV family and will offer a range of payloads to meet UK MoD requirements.

Marconi says it will contribute its systems integration experience from the British Army Phoenix UAV programme while General Atomics has extensive UAV capabilities. Bombardier Services specialises in support services.

The team is primarily aimed at meeting two British Army requirements. The MoD also has a programme dubbed Extender which plans to use UAVs as a relay for the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. The datalink is being fitted to UK aircraft, allowing the sharing of tactical data to create an overall air picture.

The US Air Force UAV Battlelab at Eglin AFB, Florida, has demonstrated the use of unmanned aircraft, as opposed to satellites, as airborne relay stations, and the data has been informally shared with the UK.

Predators in service with the USAir Force have an endurance of 40h at an operating radius of 925km (500nm) and a 25,000ft (7,600m) maximum altitude.

The Predator B, being developed with company funds, will fly for the first time next year with an AlliedSignal TPE331 turboprop, which will increase its operating altitude to above 40,000ft.

Source: Flight International