General Atomic has test flown a new version of its Predator B (Reaper) unmanned aircraft that is the basis for David Cameron’s so-called “Protector” drone.
New 79-foot wings – 13 feet longer than previous – have been added to the Extended Range version of the infamous Predator drone. 40 of the Extended Range (with increased fuel-capacity) have been delivered to the USAF recently for “field testing”. The new design with increased wing lengths will increase flight times of the drone from 27 hours to 40 hours say the company.
Alongside extending flight time, the new drone will be built to be able to take off and land automatically, conform to NATO airworthiness standards and aimed at gaining certification to be flown within UK and European airspace, something which current version of the Predator and Reaper are not allowed to do.
“Predator B ER’s new 79-foot wing span not only boosts the RPA’s endurance and range, but also serves as proof-of-concept for the next-generation Predator B aircraft that will be designed for Type-Certification and airspace integration,” said Linden Blue, CEO.
Ahead of the Conservative Party Conference last autumn, David Cameron announced in an interview with the Telegraph that he was doubling the UK drone fleet again and replacing Reapers with the new “Protector” drone. Drone watchers were baffled as no-one had heard of such an aircraft. However, despite David Cameron’s re-branding exercise, the MoD confirmed that the new drone will be an updated version of the Predator B (Reaper) drone.
No details on the cost of the new drones have yet been released.