SAN DIEGO, California --- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the leading manufacturer of remotely piloted aircraft systems, announced today that on 9 June its newest prop-jet aircraft, Altair, made its maiden flight from the companyâ€™s El Mirage flight operations facility in California.
Altair was developed in conjunction with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to conduct high altitude scientific research and to perform flight operations in national air space.
Altair, a variant of the U.S. Air Force Predator B aircraft, also carries the designation of Predator B-ER. With a wingspan of 86 feet, Altair is designed for operations well above 50,000 feet. In addition to its scientific research missions, this variant of the proven Predator series, is also planned for extensive use by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard for maritime surveillance and Homeland Defense missions because of its long endurance of up to 44 hours and large payload capacity.
"Altair's first flight today is a culmination of ten years of experience in building reliable unmanned aircraft based on a common design philosophy. I am very proud of our design, manufacturing and flight-readiness teams for their dedication to a high performance level of excellence," stated Mr. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer.
Marked as the first remotely piloted aircraft that will eventually meet aviation authority requirements for flights in National Air Space, Altair is configured with a fault-tolerant dual-architecture flight control system and triple redundant avionics to increase reliability. The aircraft will be integrated with an automated collision avoidance system as well as an air traffic control voice relay that will be incorporated for National Airspace missions.
Established in 1993, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has expanded the acceptance and application of unmanned aircraft systems such as the IGNAT, operated by the U.S. government and several overseas customers; the ALTUS, operated in conjunction with NASA; the MQ-1 Predator, the workhorse of the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts; the MQ-9 Predator B, operated by the U.S. Air Force; and, now ALTAIR for a variety of mission applications including scientific and atmospheric research, surveillance, reconnaissance and others.