Three Belgium companies have been selected from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) Blue Magic Belgium event with the goal of supporting the development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) for Belgium defence forces. The three Belgian companies selected are AIRobot, ALX Systems and Hexagon.
GA-ASI held outreach events in Belgium from May 15-16 with the goal of identifying small to medium-sized Belgian companies that can support SkyGuardian development through cutting-edge technologies. This followed the Belgian government's approval for the acquisition of GA-ASI’s SkyGuardian to meet the nation’s RPA requirements.
Blue Magic Belgium was a Research and Development (R&D) event held in two regions of Belgium. Approximately 50 related companies registered for the event and 19 companies were selected to present their innovative technologies to a technical panel of experts from GA-ASI. GA-ASI is committed to placing $3 million in R&D funding with Belgium industry. This investment will focus on high-value technological development with small to medium-sized enterprises. The seed funds will be used to develop Belgian capabilities that meet Ministry of Defense (MOD) and industry objectives to be competitive in future European RPA programmes.
AIRobot, a company based at DronePort in Sint-Truiden, Belgium focuses on developing drone performance equipment for easy, precise and safe professional operations, while specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for processing hyper-spectral imagery.
ALX Systems is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) solution provider based in Liège, Belgium and specializes in AI for processing Full Motion Video. Hexagon’s Geospatial division, with an office in Leuven, Belgium, focuses on software solutions and geospatial tools for visualising location intelligence, such as auto-routing UAS and creating a smart digital reality.
Meanwhile, GA-ASI announced that the MQ-9B SkyGuardian has notched up more than 100 test flights as the UK's Royal Air Force prepares to take delivery of the RPA in the early 2020s as part of the Protector RG Mk1 programme.
Since making its first flight in November 2016, GA-ASI has kept the new RPA busy performing a variety of flights, from long endurance testing (logging 48.2 consecutive hours in flight in May 2017) to becoming the first Medium-altitude, Long-range RPA to perform a trans-Atlantic flight in July 2018.
A second company-owned SkyGuardian was completed in September 2018 to support the aggressive development workload.
“There’s no rest for these aircraft,” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “They’re built to remain aloft for long periods of time performing the important missions our customers require. SkyGuardian is customizable with nine hardpoints and payloads to meet customer requirements.”
The SkyGuardian is also being considered by the Australian Defence Force, who chose GA-ASI to supply an RPA system for Project Air 7003.