San Diego Business Journal

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said Feb. 7 that its second jet-powered unmanned aircraft flew for the first time, in January. The company disclosed that its Predator C Avenger flew Jan. 12 at its Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale.

The second aircraft is slightly different from the first: GA-ASI extended the fuselage of its new model by four feet, to 44 feet, to accommodate larger payloads and more fuel. The aircraft is capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, missiles and surveillance gear. The manufacturer says it can stay in the air for more than 16 hours and fly faster than 460 mph.

Privately held GA-ASI, an affiliate of General Atomics, also said that it is building two more of the aircraft. The third in the series is expected to fly by late summer; the fourth by early 2013.

The U.S. Air Force announced recently that it was entering into a noncompetitive contract to buy a jet-powered drone from General Atomics for testing.

— Brad Graves