General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has selected two Belgian companies, ALX Systems and Coexpair, to support the development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and other advanced RPA-related projects. The companies were selected from a field of 18 companies that presented their ideas and capabilities to a panel of GA-ASI technical experts during Blue Magic Belgium 2021. BMB21, held Sept. 15-16, 2021 at the headquarters of GA-ASI’s Belgian partner DronePort in Sint-Truiden, provided an opportunity for Belgium-based businesses to present their capabilities and products to GA-ASI with the goal of expanding GA-ASI’s business-to-business cooperation with Belgian industry. The Belgian Ministry of Defense announced in 2020 that it will acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian with first delivery expected next year.
“We were impressed by the many talented companies that participated in Blue Magic Belgium. We look forward to working with ALX Systems and Coexpair,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Engineering Dee Wilson, who led the GA-ASI panel.
“ALX is happy to be selected again and looks forward to working with GA-ASI to develop a mission manager software application that will generate mission plans for autonomous operations,” said ALX Systems’ Founder & CEO Geoffrey Mormal.
“Our project with GA-ASI will tackle the challenge of resin intrusion into sandwich core during RTM processing,” said André Bertin, CEO of Coexpair
ALX Systems develops unmanned aircraft solutions, including a cloud-enabled operating system that enables UAS to fly autonomously. Coexpair specializes in out-of-autoclave Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) processing of composite parts. They offer material selection and prototyping services to develop this process for customer-specific needs. Coexpair will work with GA-ASI to develop an innovative RTM process for core stiffened composite sandwich structures. ALX Systems and Coexpair are part of a growing list of Belgium-based businesses working with GA-ASI. Other companies include AeroSimulators Group, AIRobot, Hexagon’s Geospatial division and ScioTeq, SABCA, Thales Belgium, ST Engineering and DronePort.
International demand for a MALE RPAS capable of being certified for operation within civilian airspace drove General Atomics to develop a version of the platform known by GA-ASI as MQ-9B SkyGuardian, previously called Certifiable Predator B, to make it compliant with European flight regulations to get more sales in European countries. In order to fly over national airspace, the aircraft meets NATO STANAG 4671 airworthiness requirements with lightning protection, different composite materials, and sense and avoid technology. Performance changes include a 79 ft (24 m) wingspan that has winglets and enough fuel for a 40-hour endurance at 50,000 ft (15,000 m). Features include High Definition EO/IR Full Motion Video sensor, De/Anti-Icing System, TCAS, and Automatic Take-Off & Land.