General Atomics collaborates with businesses in UK, Belgium

By Patrick C. Miller | January 29, 2019

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) is in industrial collaborations with businesses in the United Kingdom and Belgium to support its operational MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), as well as its new MQ-9B SkyGuardian program.

The Team SkyGuardian group includes five Belgium-based businesses as part of an industrial collaboration effort with the country’s aerospace and defense industry. The Belgian team includes GA-ASI, SABCA, Thales Belgium, Esterline, DronePort and satellite communication technology company Newtec.

Belgium’s government recently announced the selection of MQ-9B SkyGuardian to meet the RPA requirements of Belgian Defense. GA-ASI’s MQ-9B has also been selected by the Royal Air Force for its Protector RG Mk1 program.

“RPA technology is critical to protecting the national security interests of countries around the globe,” said Alain Quevrin, CEO of Thales Belgium S.A. “We look forward to sharing our technical and in-country expertise with GA-ASI as it seeks to support Belgium’s current medium-altitude, long-range (MALE) RPA requirement.”

DronePort Incubator is the home for startups and research teams involved in the new, unmanned aviation market. The test facilities provide segregated airspace and the opportunity to test and demonstrate new UAS applications. DronePort will facilitate the identification of UAS-technology seed funding opportunities within Belgium.

On Jan. 24 in London, GA-ASI hosted an industry showcase to recognize 12 UK companies contributing to the operational MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle systems, plus the MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA program. The Royal Air Force MQ-9B variant is called Protector RG Mk1.

The London event featured contract signings with MBDA and Raytheon UK to integrate UK weapons onto the Protector RG Mk1. In addition, a new memorandum of agreement was signed with BAE Systems to collaborate on integration of UAS into UK national airspace.

“We have been working with our UK teammates, in some cases for many years already, to make the RAF’s procurement of Protector a significant success,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “Protector will be an example for other allied nations to follow, thereby creating more opportunities for UK aerospace industry.”

The MQ-9B is the result of a five-year, GA-ASI-funded effort to deliver an unmanned aircraft that is safe to fly in non-segregated airspace because of its compliance with the stringent airworthiness requirements of NATO STANAG 4671. The company designed the SkyGuardian as the next generation of its multi-mission Predator B fleet. The maritime surveillance variant is called the SeaGuardian.