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UK’s ‘Protector’ Drone Completes Key Tests

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced the completion of key tests on the Royal Air Force’s Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft, indicating that full evaluation of the aircraft should be wrapped up by late next year.

The tests included “full-scale static strength (FSS), high-intensity radiated frequency (HIRF) and environmental testing,” the US defense company revealed

The Tests

The FSS tested the strength of the aircraft’s major structures at maximum airspeeds and G-loads, demonstrating the aircraft’s airworthiness in all classes of UK and international airspace.

The HIRF involved putting the aircraft under “high-intensity electromagnetic radiation across the full operational electromagnetic spectrum,” including “the Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation on Ordnance testing for the Protector weapons load-out.”

Finally, the environmental testing featured “extreme cold temperature (to -33 Celsius/-27 Fahrenheit), in-flight ice, supercooled fog, in-flight rain, high humidity, and high temperature with solar load.”

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems completes a series of system-level tests for the Protector. Image: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

‘One Step Closer to Fielding’

Senior Director for the Protector RPAS at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Chris Dusseault, said that “these critical system-level tests prove the safety and reliability of our aircraft to operate in extreme climates and electromagnetic environments.”

“We’re proud to see the design concepts of MQ-9B be proven in operational environments bringing the Protector system one step closer to fielding with our RAF partner.”

The Protector Program

The UK has contracted General Atomics for the production and delivery of 16 Protector drones by 2023.

The Protector is the configured version of the baseline MQ-9B SkyGuardian with UK-specific additions including “X-band satellite communications and support for UK weapon systems, as well as the aircraft’s onboard sensors such as its electro-optical sensor ball and Lynx® Multi-mode Radar.”

The aircraft can fly for up to 40 hours and is expected to improve UK Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance capabilities.

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