General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. has completed the “first lifetime” of fatigue testing for the MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft.
The company conducted the full-scale testing from Dec. 13, 2022, through Dec. 5, 2023, at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research in Kansas using a production airframe built for the test program.
During the trial phase, a GA-ASI team tested the RPA to clock 40,000 operating hours, a crucial step in validating MQ-9B’s system design.
According to the defense contractor, the full-scale fatigue test applied repeated structural pressure on the airframe to simulate the aircraft’s design service.
The testing intends to detect potential structural deficiencies before deployment and enables the formulation of inspection and maintenance routines for the RPA.
General Atomics said the test results will inform MQ-9B’s certification and the development of guidelines for examining the aircraft’s structural components.
The aircraft will undergo two more lifetimes of testing, which would simulate aircraft operation under normal conditions and deliberately damage its critical components to demonstrate its resistance to serious operational issues.
MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPA and features the SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian models and the new Protector RG Mk 1, which is being supplied to the British Royal Air Force.
Meanwhile, Canada will also start receiving the SkyGuardian in 2028 after signing a deal with GA-ASI that includes provisions for associated ground control stations and support equipment.