Three finalists have been selected from General Atomics-ASI’s Blue Magic Belgium event (May 15th and 16th) with the goal of supporting GA-ASI and the development of MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) for Belgium. The three Belgian companies selected are AIRobot, ALX Systems, and Hexagon.
AIRobot, a company based at DronePort in Sint Truiden, focuses on developing drone performance equipment for easy, precise and safe professional operations while specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for processing hyper-spectral imagery. ALX Systems is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) solution provider based in Liège, specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for processing Full Motion Video. Hexagon’s Geospatial division, with an office in Leuven, specialises in software solutions and geospatial tools for visualising location intelligence, such as auto-routing UAS and creating a smart digital reality.
“We were very impressed by the many talented companies and particularly by the innovative concepts presented by these three finalists,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI.
Blue Magic Belgium was a Research and Development (R&D) event held in Belgium. Approximately 50 related companies registered for the event and 19 companies were selected to present their innovative technologies to a technical panel of experts from GA-ASI. GA-ASI is committed to placing $3 million in R&D funding with Belgium industry. This investment will focus on high-value technological development with small to medium-sized enterprises. The seed funds will be utilised to develop Belgian capabilities that meet Ministry of Defence (MOD) and industry objectives to be competitive in future European Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) programs.
Nevertheless, it is fair to wonder why companies such as SONACA have not been taken over for a meeting/interview with the American company? It should be noted that SONACA is involved in the B-Hunter UAVs still being used by the Belgian Air Force today.
About MQ-9B SkyGuardian
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA – designed and developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI) – has now flown more than 100 test flights as development continues towards its first delivery to the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Since making its first flight in November 2016, GA-ASI has kept the new RPA busy performing a variety of flights, like long endurance testing (logging 48.2 consecutive hours in flight in May 2017). A second company-owned SkyGuardian was completed in September 2018 to support the aggressive development workload.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring SkyGuardian as part of its Protector RG Mk1 programme and is scheduled for first delivery in the early 2020s. The Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defence to negotiate the acquisition of SkyGuardian to meet the nation’s RPA requirements. The aircraft is also being considered by the Australian Defence Force, who chose GA-ASI to supply an RPA system for Project Air 7003.
GA-ASI designed the new RPA as the next generation of multi-mission Predator® B fleet. GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian, which is available with a multimode 360 degree Maritime Patrol Radar and a host of other maritime capabilities.
MQ-9B development is the result of a five-year, company-funded programme to deliver an unmanned aircraft to meet the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO and various civil authorities. As part of the certification effort, MQ-9B is being provisioned with a GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid (DAA) system. The DAA system consists of a Due Regard Radar and processor, coupled with an advanced Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). The new RPA is also built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than five million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas.