General Atomics has unveiled a variant of its Predator UAV designed to operate in civil airspace.

Slated for production beginning in 2018, the SkyGuardian "is the result of a five-year long company funded effort to deliver an RPA system that can operate under the stringent airworthiness requirements of non-military airspace," according to a General Atomics news release.

"The aircraft leverages the legacy of the multi-mission Predator B fleet, which has amassed nearly two million flight hours. SkyGuardian can fly in excess of 35 hours with airspeeds up to 210 knots, and reach altitudes of more than 14000 meters," the company said.

The UAV, built as a General Atomics internal development project, can carry sensor and communications payloads suitable for missions such as border patrol, maritime surveillance and disaster relief.