General Atomics Aeronautical Systems


Sep 22, 2006

Aircraft Also Successfully Completes First UA Compliance Audit

SAN DIEGO - 22 September 2006 - General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft (UA) and high-resolution surveillance and radar imaging systems, today announced that its Altair® high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) passed the recertification process for the UA airworthiness certificate, experimental category, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Last August Altair received the nation’s first airworthiness certificate for an unmanned aircraft system, and a year later it remains the only operating UAS that still carries that distinction,” said Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. “Altair’s recertification is a testament to the ability of our aircraft to meet the FAA’s standards and brings us closer to the ultimate goal of enabling routine UA operations in the National Airspace System for emerging commercial and civil applications and military and homeland security missions.”

Access to the National Airspace System (NAS) has historically been granted to a UA manufacturer through an FAA-granted Certificate of Authorization (COA). Changes made last fall limit COA issuance to government agencies and specify that the agency must operate a particular UA for a particular purpose in a particular area. In contrast, an airworthiness certificate specifies operating instructions to the aircraft and applies them only to one aircraft, or tail number, for training UA crews in the unrestricted areas where manufacturer airports typically reside. Under Altair’s airworthiness certificate, the aircraft can continue to be used for crew training, experimental flight testing and marketing demonstrations at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte and El Mirage air fields in Palmdale and Adelanto, CA.

As part of the recertification process, the FAA conducted the first compliance audit for a UA on the Altair aircraft, which is similar to the testing performed on commercial airliners. Altair passed the audit in compliance with all operations, maintenance and training requirements.

Altair, a high-altitude version of Predator® B, was designed specifically for scientific and commercial research missions that require high-altitude endurance, reliability and increased payload capacity. Built in partnership with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center for its Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program, the aircraft has logged nearly 400 flight hours since it began service in 2003 and is currently operational with NASA and NOAA. Featuring an 86-foot wingspan and 3,000-pound fuel capacity, Altair can fly above 52,000 feet and remain airborne for over 30 hours. The aircraft is configured with a fault-tolerant dual-architecture flight control system, triple-redundant avionics and a Honeywell turbo-prop engine for high reliability.

About GA-ASI

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., an affiliate of General Atomics, provides comprehensive solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide. The company’s Aircraft Systems Group is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable unmanned aircraft systems, including Predator, Predator B and the ER/MP UAS, and provides pilot training and support services for UAS field operations. The Aircraft Systems Group has been awarded the SDD phase of the U.S. Army’s ER/MP UAS Program and is currently developing the next-generation Army UAS, featuring a heavy-fuel engine, triple-redundant avionics and increased armament capability. The Reconnaissance Systems Group designs, manufactures and integrates the Magnum (Raptor View) high-resolution EO/IR and Lynx® SAR/GMTI sensor systems for both manned and unmanned aircraft. Leading the industry to new levels of performance, reliability and operational capability since its establishment in 1993, the company has expanded the acceptance and application of UAS within the United States and among allied forces around the globe. GA-ASI is committed to providing immediately deployable transformational technology for military operations, weapons systems and civil missions. For more information, please visit

Altair, Predator and Lynx are registered trademarks of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

For more information contact:

Kimberly Kasitz 

Public Relations Manager

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.


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