Military Drone

Military Drone _ The GA-ASI Gray Eagle Extended Range ( ER ) is a military drone developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. ( GA-ASI ) for the United States Army. It is an advanced, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system ( UAS ) designed to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ( ISR ) capabilities, as well as attack capabilities, to ground troops, with a maximum endurance of over 24 hours.

Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc. / Military Drone
Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc. / Military Drone

Military Drone – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. ( GA-ASI ) announced that the family of Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems ( UAS ) surpassed 1 million flight hours on March 16, 2021, during US Army flight operations. Since that first flight, GA-ASI and the US Army fielded over 250 Gray Eagle-type aircraft, including the new Gray Eagle Extended Range ( GE-ER ) aircraft, Over 80% of the 1 million flight hours were flown in support of deployed operations with a better than 90% Mission Capable Rate.

The Gray Eagle ER has a wingspan of 56 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of 4,200 pounds. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 29,000 feet. The drone is equipped with an array of sensors, including electro-optical and infrared cameras, a synthetic aperture radar ( SAR ), and a signal intelligence ( SIGINT ) system.

 

Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc.
Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc.

The next-generation enhanced Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) variant of the combat-tested Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). In support of the warfighter, GE-ER conducts long-duration UAS surveillance, communications relay, and weapon delivery missions. With its much-extended endurance, significantly enhanced reliability/maintainability, and significantly expanded payload and missile capacity, the aircraft provides the Army with an advanced UAS capability. The GE-ER aircraft, which made its first flight in July 2013, builds on the accomplishments of its Gray Eagle predecessor by offering upgraded, game-changing capabilities for preserving the lives of Army soldiers serving abroad by offering extended surveillance coverage and the capacity to travel independently to remote locations.

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In comparison to the Gray Eagle, which has a GTOW of 3,600 pounds and a 160HP diesel engine, the GE-ER is designed with a Max Gross Takeoff Weight ( MGTOW ) of 4,200 pounds. The GE-deep ER’s belly design and 500-pound centerline hard point allow for an internal fuel load of 900 pounds, with an external fuel pod’s capacity for an extra 450 pounds ( the fuel load of the Gray Eagle is 600 pounds ). The use of this extra fuel aids in the persistence of Army RSTA missions ( Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition ). GE-ER endurance has been tested at GA-Flight ASI’s Operations Facility in El Mirage, California, and has been proven in all Army operational variants.

The higher engine horsepower and internal payload capacity of the GE-ER allow for greater airworthiness design with the option to include technologies like lightning protection, damage tolerance, and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc.
Photo Credit: General Atomics Inc.

The automatic takeoff and landing system (ATLS) used by GE-ER enables operator-free takeoff and landing of the aircraft. The Gray Eagle ATLS from GA-ASI, which has successfully completed tens of thousands of takeoffs and landings, served as the foundation for its ATLS.

In terms of its attack capabilities, the Gray Eagle ER can carry a variety of weapons, including Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs, and air-to-ground rockets. It also has a common datalink that allows it to communicate and share data with other UAS and ground-based systems.

The Gray Eagle ER has been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has provided valuable support to ground troops in their missions. It’s long endurance and sophisticated sensors make it a valuable asset for intelligence gathering and target acquisition, while its attack capabilities allow it to strike targets with precision and minimal collateral damage.

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