MADRID — General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is looking to deepen its ties with Spanish partner Sener Aeroespacial to sell that company’s multipurpose NATO Pod to drone customers in Europe.
On display at the U.S. company’s stand at the Feria Internacional de Defensa y Seguridad (FEINDEF) exhibition here in mid-May, the vendors aim to market the pod as a fully flight-certified carrier for whatever payloads operators of the MQ-9A unmanned aerial vehicle want to deploy.
“We are working with our partner Sener to establish a memorandum of agreement to cover emerging business opportunities,” C. Mark Brinkley, senior director of strategic communications at General Atomics, told Defense News in an email.
The company announced in December that the NATO Pod had flown for the first time at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, on one of its MQ-9A, or Reaper, drones. During this test, the pod featured a payload built by Arpège SAS, a French subsidiary of Rhode & Schwarz, that implements satellite monitoring systems.
The NATO Pod is designed and manufactured by Sener Aeroespecial in Europe to meet NATO airworthiness standards and enhance payload options for both MQ-9A and MQ-9B drones. The vendors have previously stated that its development was driven to provide customers with a European-made, customizable enclosure for carrying national sensor suites on their Reapers.
The companies hope that Spain will be the first buyer, though there is no official word to that effect. Other MQ-9A European operators include the U.K. – which also recently acquired the MQ-9B variant alongside Belgium – France, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.