At 6.51pm (GMT+1) on the 11th of July, 2018, history was made when the first ever transatlantic flight from the USA to the UK was completed by a MQ-9B SkyGuardian Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
Touching down at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK, the long-range drone finished the flight with flying colours after its 3,760 nautical mile journey.
Owned, produced and operated by Sand Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), it took off the previous day from Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA on July 10th at 12:48 p.m.
The flight took 24 hours and 2 minutes in total.
Linden Blue, CEO, of GA-ASI, says that the flight showcases the abilities of the MALE drone, which is designed to survive adverse weather including icing, as well as bird and lightning strikes.
“This historic event was a demonstration of the endurance and civil airspace capability of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and it is fitting to do this as part of the centennial celebration of the RAF,” he said.
“The successful flight of the MQ-9B is the culmination of the hard work and innovation of our dedicated employees, and the strong relationships that we enjoy with the RAF, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and our UK industry partners such as Cobham.”
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is one of several MALE drones owned and operated by GA-ASI. GA-ASI have also been operating the well known MQ-9 Reaper® RPA in support of the NATO and Coalition operations for the past 10 years.
Its maritime counterpart is the surveillance variant SeaGuardian, a STANAG 4671-compliant) version of the MQ-9 Predator B product line.
Paul Armstrong, Senior Vice President of Cobham Aviation Services UK, said: “The SkyGuardian trans-Atlantic flight is a significant and exciting event for both GA-ASI and for the future capability of the RAF. Cobham is proud to have a teaming agreement with GA-ASI for logistics and maintenance services, which builds on our present support of the Reaper Ground Control Stations. We look forward to working with both GA-ASI and the RAF as the PROTECTOR RG Mk1 comes into service.
With the upcoming RAF 100th anniverdary celebrations to be held at RAF Fairford, the MQ-9B will stay on site as a static display to be viewed by visitors.