Quicksilver forges partnership to put eyes in the sky

June 13, 2013

Quicksilver's GT 500. Photo by James Lawrence, courtesy Quicksilver Aeronautics.

Quicksilver Aircraft has struck a new deal with a Florida-based surveillance and reconnaissance contractor to expand the fleet of GT 500 supporting government and law enforcement operations.

Based in Temecula, Calif., Quicksilver has sold thousands of GT 500 kits since the two-seat aircraft was certified in the little-used primary category in 1993.

Weighing in at 1,000 pounds gross (1,100 with a Rotax 912) and able to carry up to 366 pounds of payload with its 16-gallon tank full of fuel, the GT 500 has carved out a unique place in the general aviation lineup, with a kit price around $50,000, depending on options.

Quicksilver, under new ownership since 2012, announced in April plans to offer the GT 500 and the smaller Sport IIS as light sport aircraft to those who opt not to build. (The prices for LSA versions will be announced at EAA AirVenture in July.) Meanwhile, IDENT, LLC, which has long deployed the “Mosquito” as a manned surveillance platform, jointly announced a new partnership with Quicksilver that will expand the fleet of modified GT 500s used for various missions.

IDENT, LLC specializes in surveillance and has long used Quicksilver's GT 500 as a platform. Contributed photo.

“This partnership will result in allowing the very agile GT 500 aircraft to perform persistent, rapid response, wide-area surveillance missions that have traditionally been assigned to large, expensive-to-operate aircraft,’ said IDENT Co-founder Richard McCreight in a news release.

Both companies hope the versatility and economy of the GT 500—it can be trailered and set up to fly in two hours—will appeal to various government agencies looking to cut costs amid federal budget cutting. Models produced for IDENT include a variety of features not included with the recreational versions, including GPS flight controls and advanced imaging systems. GT 500 models have logged more than 7,600 hours on various contract programs for NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and other agencies.