Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1979

)

January 24, 2000

Alan Brown Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA (Phone: 661/258-2665) RELEASE: 00-11 CALIFORNIA FIRM SELECTED TO DEVELOP AIRCRAFT TECHNOLOGIES In an effort to increase the research capabilities of highaltitude Earth science missions, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, has selected General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., (GA-ASI) San Diego, CA, to begin negotiations to demonstrate technologies expanding the capabilities of uninhabited aerial vehicles. The task under NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program jointly sponsored research agreement is to expand technical performance to meet the scientific requirements and to demonstrate operational capabilities required by the emerging uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) industry. GA-ASI will develop the new Predator B series of UAV, including an enlarged and upgraded version, to meet these requirements. As joint partners in the project, GA-ASI will contribute $8 million and NASA's Office of Aero-Space Technology will invest more than $10 million. The ERAST program has operated for approximately six years with a number of industry partners to develop UAV capabilities. The program has concentrated on developing aerodynamic propulsion and control system technologies for future high-altitude, longendurance UAVs designed for government or commercial uses. GA-ASI was selected from a field of three member firms of the ERAST Alliance submitting proposals in response to a research announcement. The other firms included Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, VA and Fairmont, W. Va., and Scaled Composites of Mojave, CA. "Each of the competing company teams had very strong technical proposals, though with very different approaches," said Dwain Deets, director of aeronautics research and technology

programs at Dryden. "The quality of these proposals is evidence of the success of the ERAST Alliance as a mechanism for mutual support and technical interchange." UAV capabilities have grown tremendously under the ERAST program and all the competitors have demonstrated capabilities to meet the growing UAV market from both government and industry. The specific scientific needs now being pursued represent a set of requirements that significantly expands the demonstrated performance levels. The required investment in new vehicle platforms drove the decision to down select to a single company. GA-ASI's proposal was selected as being best suited to meet a stringent set of requirements established by NASA's Office of Earth Science for the conventionally powered, remotely or autonomously operated aircraft. Among these requirements was a mission endurance of 24 to 48 hours at a primary altitude range of 40,000 to 65,000 feet with a payload of at least 300 kg (660 lbs.). The selected aircraft will serve as a testbed to demonstrate technologies required by the UAV industry to support a broad range of potential science, government and commercial missions. A key requirement is to develop capabilities and operational procedures to allow operations from conventional airports without conflict with piloted aircraft. In addition, the program will have to demonstrate "over-the-horizon" command and control beyond line-ofsight radio capability via a satellite link, "see-and-avoid" operation in unrestricted airspace and be able to communicate with Federal Aviation Administration controllers. To meet those requirements, GA-ASI proposed development of an "enhanced" Predator B, a 7,000-lb. gross weight aircraft capable of carrying a 700 lb. payload at altitudes of 40,000 to 52,000 feet for up to 32 hours. The aircraft is an enlarged, turboproppowered version of the Predator surveillance UAV now operated by the U.S. Air Force. GA-ASI plans to use three versions of the Predator B in the development program. The first aircraft, currently in development, will be the turboprop-powered baseline Predator B design. This version will be capable of operation in the 40,000 to 50,000-ft. altitude range for up to 25 hours. A second aircraft, modified with a Williams FJ44-2A turbofan

engine, will validate an expanded flight envelope and is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2001. This jet version is expected to have a flight endurance of more than 12 hours in the 50,000 to 60,000-ft. altitude range. A third flight-test Predator B, powered by the Allied Signal TPE-331-10T turboprop engine, will perform flight tests of advanced subsystems beginning in 2002. These systems would include over-the-horizon satellite communication-based command and control, a redundant flight control system to improve operational reliability, "see and avoid" capability, and voice relay so air traffic controllers can communicate directly with the ground-based pilot at extreme ranges. - end -