Exclusive Partnership entered with Australia-based National Air Support


Apr 02, 2004

2 April 2004 – San Diego, California. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems, has entered an exclusive partnership with Australia-based National Air Support, the current provider of fixed wing civil maritime surveillance for the Australian Government’s Coastwatch border protection program. The companies will identify opportunities in which the Mariner unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system would be applicable for civil maritime surveillance applications in Australasia.

Based on the design philosophy and operational performance of the U.S. Air Force Predator B, Mariner utilizes the Predator B fuselage coupled with the longer (86ft or 23.2m) wing of its proven ALTAIR aircraft. Endurance is increased with the addition of internal fuel tanks enabling Mariner to operate for over 49 hours during maritime and border surveillance missions. Mariner is powered by a Honeywell turbo prop engine allowing it to operate at speeds over 200 knots. Together with an on-board camera system and maritime radar, Mariner is optimized for operations at high altitudes and can descend to lower altitudes for identification of contacts. Video and radar information is instantly transmitted to numerous end users throughout Australasia. The performance envelope of the Mariner provides customers with the flexibility to perform littoral and maritime surveillance at a quarter of the cost of competing UAV systems.

Mr. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., believes that Australia needs a low-cost, low-risk solution to its current maritime surveillance operations. “These systems are the most capable, long endurance UAVs in the world and have proven themselves time and time again in extended surveillance operations. Fusing our experience of providing customers with a reliable, cost-effective unmanned aircraft system with Surveillance Australia’s vast practical experience in the field of maritime surveillance, we are now able to offer an efficient surveillance solution for clients in the Australasian region,” said Mr. Cassidy.

National Air Support managing director Mr. Peter Nottage said that the company expects Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to play an increasing role in future civil maritime surveillance operations. “Around the world various organizations are exploring the capability and practical uses of UAVs for long range, long endurance surveillance, and their ability to complement operation of manned aircraft. The Australian Government has recently adopted a similar approach in their program to replace the P3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft with a mix of new aircraft and long range, long endurance UAVs,” he said.

Mr. Nottage said that although much of the development had been for military applications, the benefits of that research and experience in operating UAVs are evolving into civil uses for the aircraft. “As the world’s largest civil maritime aerial surveillance organization, we need to be at the forefront of that development in our region. By working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, we ensure that when customers in the Asia Pacific region come looking for an unmanned aircraft for civil surveillance, we can respond with a system and an operational concept that is efficient, cost-effective and reliable,” said Mr. Nottage.

About the Companies

Founded in 1993, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has spearheaded acceptance and set industry reliability standards for unmanned aircraft systems for military and commercial customers such as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, NASA, U.S. Department of Energy, the Canadian Forces and several overseas governments. Leading the industry to new levels of performance and interoperability for network centric operations, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. uses proven design philosophies and the experience gained by the combat-proven Predator to develop aircraft systems which meet the performance requirements of customers worldwide.

National Air Support is an Adelaide based company, specializing in “special mission” aviation and aerospace activities. Its subsidiary, Surveillance Australia, operates 15 purpose-modified surveillance aircraft under contract to the Australian Customs Service Coastwatch program. This program is the largest civil maritime surveillance program in the world, flying more than 20,000 hours per year and patrolling Australia’s 37,000 km coastline and Economic Exclusion Zone. This surveillance area is, in total, larger than the Australian mainland. National Air Support is a subsidiary of the FR Aviation group, Cobham's center of excellence for contracted flight operations and aviation services.

For more information contact:

Public Relations Department
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

Peter Nottage
Managing Director
National Air support
Ph: 08.8154.5626
Fax: 08.8154.5624 


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