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General Atomics to open new secure advanced manufacturing facility

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been investing in key technologies for the development of advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems throughout its 30-year history.

The company has delivered more than 1,000 aircraft that have flown in excess of 7.5 million flight hours, but the company has always had an eye toward the future, through its ongoing commitment to delivering the world’s most capable unmanned systems.

The latest capstone in GA-ASI’s plan is the completion of a new state-of-the-art composite manufacturing facility that is set to launch the next generation of highly reliable autonomous unmanned aircraft.

“As the world leader in unmanned aircraft systems, GA-ASI is charting the new frontier for low-cost, survivable aircraft that are highly effective for the warfighter,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander.

The new Secure Advanced Manufacturing facility is in the heart of GA-ASI’s 40-plus building campus in Poway, Calif. GA-ASI is focusing the talents of its advanced engineering and manufacturing teams into a single location where they will design, build, and integrate the next generation of UAS.

The new site will be used for end-to-end development of advanced UAS needed to win in future conflicts. It will be a self-contained entity, where engineering will be on the floor with manufacturing, along with finance, contracts, and supply chain staff. This new facility will provide a very streamlined and agile manufacturing environment, which carries the company’s integrated product development culture.

“Our new facility will house the full development and creation of GA-ASI’s Digital Product Definition strategy,” said Alexander. “Interconnecting the manufacturing, engineering, and business process workspaces in a manner that interweaves product engineering, cost accounting, and part status, which will allow GA-ASI to optimize all aspects of the program’s life cycle.”

This strategy leverages the company’s multi-year investment in digital design tools and the move to a fully digital business process. GA-ASI has built prototype parts using the DPD process that were integrated into Full-Scale Determinant Assemblies. The prototype effort also integrates novel inspection techniques that detect and characterize planned flaws.

The company pressed forward with this building project during the height of Covid, to the great benefit to their equipment suppliers during a time of economic uncertainty. Suppliers were able to meet their delivery dates and install new equipment on time and construction is now expected to be complete by mid-2023. The company committed funding for renovation and the city of Poway and regulatory organizations were very supportive and helped to meet all the project approval milestones, enabling the team to meet the aggressive construction plan.

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