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NASA - Large UAS Aircraft
October 3, 2008


The Ikhana is a General Atomics Predator B that was acquired by NASA, to serve as an aeronautical research aircraft and to serve the Earth Sciences community. The name "Ikhana" comes from the Native American Choctaw language meaning intelligence. The Ikhana measures 36 feet in length, with a wingspan of 66 feet. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 10,500 pounds.

NASA's Ikhana #870 and sensor pod in flight

NASA's Ikhana #870 and sensor pod in flight.

The payload capability of Ikhana is 800 pounds (internal) and more than 2000 plus pounds (external). Where possible, sensor payloads will be integrated into wing-mounted pods, in order to minimize aircraft downtime and allow rapid reconfiguration. Ikhana is expected to operate at altitudes in the 40,000 to 45,000 feet region, with endurances that will exceed that of the Altair due to higher fuel capacity and the efficiency of the new digital electronic engine controller.

Ikhana mobile ground control station

Ikhana mobile ground control station

The unpiloted Ikhana aircraft will be controlled from a ruggedized, mobile ground control station that hosts the pilot control station, engineering monitoring workstations, science monitoring stations, and range safety oversight. The aircraft can be controlled from local line-of-sight C-band command/control or Ku-band over-the-horizon satellite command/control.

Both the aircraft and support systems will be capable of being deployed both nationally and internationally in order to execute the desired missions. Ikhana's wings, tails, and propeller can be removed and the entire system packed into a rugged shipping container. The ground control station is suitable for over-land, ship-based, or many aircraft transportation systems.

Airborne Research Test System (ARTS) used for remotely controlling the Ikhana aircraft

Airborne Research Test System (ARTS) used for remotely controlling the Ikhana aircraft

The project is currently developing the hardware and software for an Airborne Research Test System (ARTS). Once integrated into the aircraft's flight control systems, the ARTS will have the ability to autonomously command the aircraft, much like a pilot would normally do from the ground control station. The ARTS will be used to host new flight control and health monitoring technologies in support of Aeronautics and Earth Science goals.

Point of Contact
Brent Cobleigh

Related Links and Mission + Southern California Wildfire Mission
+ Ikhana Photos
+ Ikhana Movies

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Page Last Updated: August 30th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator