General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has executed a research collaboration agreement with a consortium of Japanese industry, government, and academia groups to accelerate operational approval for Medium-altitude Long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to fly in non-segregated Japanese civil airspace.
The announcement was made during a briefing at the recent Japan Drone expo in Makuhari Messe, Chiba, Japan.
GA-ASI says the collaboration will help drive efforts to validate Japanese airspace integration concepts for the Guardian aircraft and other RPA. The Guardian is a multi-mission maritime patrol variant of the company's Predator B platform.
This latest announcement follows the launch in January of the company's SkyGuardian concept, specifically designed to operate under the airworthiness requirements of non-military airspace.
The Japanese partnership seeks to establish the first civil MALE RPA flight approval in Japan and examine its utility for public and commercial operations. The company explains that Japan’s exposure to natural disasters means that it is in strong need of resilient situational awareness and communication capabilities. RPA such as Guardian could play a critical role in fulfilling these needs.
The long-term goal of the collaboration is to fly the Guardian in non-segregated Japanese airspace and to expand the RPA’s mission capabilities. Currently, RPA airspace regulations do not exist in Japan.