Company Receives Design Innovation Award for the Mariner Unmanned Aircraft


Jul 15, 2004

15 July 2004 – London, United Kingdom. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems, was presented with the Shephard’s Press Unmanned Vehicles Magazine Design Innovation Award for its development of the Mariner aircraft. Mr. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, received the award at a presentation ceremony held at the Shephard’s Press UV Europe Conference held at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Center in London. This is the second award the company has received for its innovative design of unmanned aircraft. The first was given for the Predator B program in 2001.

“A tremendous amount of innovation has gone into the design and employment of the Mariner aircraft. This program evolved from conscious efforts to expand the utility of the prop jet Predator B series for maritime surveillance without incurring operational risks or financial burdens. I thank every one of our employees for their continued dedication to this program and to the readers of Unmanned Vehicles Magazine for recognizing the Mariner program for its innovative design,” said Mr. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer.

The Mariner aircraft program utilizes the same design philosophy that the company has built its success on since the early 90s. By understanding the mission objectives of its customers, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is able to adopt proven systems to meet diverse mission requirements. In the case of maritime surveillance and the development of the Mariner program, the company utilized the Predator B program to further the mission flexibility of the system and utility by the customer.

Beginning as a company funded initiative in 1999, the Predator B program transitioned to a jointly funded effort by the company and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in January 2000. The program initially consisted of a turboprop, jet and an enhanced turboprop configuration. In 2001, the U.S. Air Force procured the first two prototypes equipped with a Honeywell TPE-331-10T turboprop engine. The company is under contract with the U.S Air Force to produce fourteen Predator B aircraft. All production versions are equipped to carry over 800 lbs internally and 3,000 lbs externally at speed over 200 KIAS to an altitude over 50,000 feet.

The third aircraft, ALTAIR, was originally developed for scientific and commercial applications that require a large payload capacity and operations above 50,000 ft. Configured with an 86-foot wing span along with the same Predator B fuselage and Honeywell engine, ALTAIR flew for the first time in June 2003. To further expand the capabilities of the Predator B series, ALTAIR has since been modified with a radar pod which is designed to house any number of multi-mode maritime radars.

On 22 April 2004, this aircraft, the Mariner Demonstrator, was deployed off the coast of San Diego. During this operation, Mariner flew from El Mirage, California on an instrument flight plan through the Los Angeles area to an operational area off the coast of San Diego where it performed maritime surveillance using a Raytheon multi-mode radar and electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) cameras. The operation was a complete success for several reasons but specifically because it was the first time that a U.S. unmanned aircraft had flown with a maritime radar. Control of Mariner and its payloads were passed in real-time to an operational center located at the U.S. Navy’s SPAWAR facility in San Diego where one operator at a Lockheed Martin Q-70 workstation controlled the aircraft, radar and EO/IR cameras using a computer mouse for point-and-click commands. This operation was conducted together with Lockheed Martin, the company’s teaming partner on the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Program.

The Mariner Demonstrator will soon deploy to northeast Canada to support the Atlantic Littoral ISR Experiment where it will perform launch and recovery operations from Goose Bay, Labrador and reach back control from a command center in Ottawa. The objective of this deployment will be to conduct 28-30 hour surveillance flights over the Artic, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Grand Banks areas using EO/IR cameras as well as different maritime radar. Imagery will be passed real-time to ground sites including Canadian ships at sea.

Headquartered in San Diego, California, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. was established in 1993 and currently employs over 1,000 people located in over six locations around the world. The company is completely focused on the design, development and employment of proven unmanned aircraft systems for customers throughout the world. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr. is President and Chief Executive Officer.

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.


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