General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) will unveil its latest unmanned aircraft at a major defense conference this month.
A full-scale model of the Predator XP, the updated version of the Poway-based defense contractor's flagship Predator, will be on display at IDEX 2013.
The aircraft shell will demonstrate what’s next in unmanned technology.
IDEX, also known as the International Defence Exhibition and Conference, will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Feb. 17 to 21.
The leading defense industry event for the region attracts some 60,000 people from across the world and the surrounding regions of the Middle East, Africa and Asian Subcontinent, according to its website.
The Middle East market value for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is an estimated $1 billion.
“With significant interest from the UAE and other countries in Predator XP’s long-endurance and wide-area surveillance capabilities, IDEX presents the ideal venue for the debut of our Predator XP full-scale model,” said Frank Pace, president of GA-ASI's aircraft systems group.
The group designs and makes remotely piloted aircraft, tactical reconnaissance radars and electro-optic surveillance systems for military and commercial applications worldwide.
Its lineup includes the Predator A, Predator B, Gray Eagle, and the new Predator C Avenger and Predator XP.
Predator XP exhibits the same physical dimensions, altitude, speed, and long endurance -- up to 35 hours -- as the Predator A.
Updates include triple-redundant avionics, an automatic takeoff and landing system, high-definition electro-optic video, an improved sensor control and image analysis software system, an automatic identification system and a more efficient propulsion system.
At IDEX 2011, GA-ASI announced a working relationship with International Golden Group, a top supplier of integrated defense systems in the Middle East, to offer Predator XP to meet the surveillance needs of the UAE government. Discussions between the three parties are continuing.
GA-ASI is also in talks with the Abu Dhabi-based Tawazun Economic Council and other local companies on developing a joint venture for long-term service and support of Predator XP in the UAE.
Predator XP offers improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and has been licensed by the United States government to be proposed for sale to a broader customer base, including countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
GA-ASI pulled in $1.67 billion in contracts in 2011 and calls the U.S. Air Force and CIA customers.
The global demand for UAVs could reach $12 billion by 2019, even in the face of sharp cuts in U.S. military spending.
UAV spending has nearly doubled in San Diego since 2008.
The other large local player in the space is Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC), with a high-altitude Global Hawk UAV that's used in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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