GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian completes flight through non-restricted airspace


General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) has successfully completed a flight through various classes of non-restricted airspace, marking a significant step towards certification.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian took off from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, US, following approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

During the flight that lasted close to 105 minutes, the RPA travelled 275 miles and reached GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations facility near Palmdale in California, US.

GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said: "This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets Nato airworthiness requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

"MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be the first RPA system of its kind with a design-assurance level compliant with international type-certification standards, and can, therefore, be integrated more easily than legacy RPAs into civil airspace operations around the world."

"This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets Nato airworthiness requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)."

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring a weaponised variant of the RPA under the MQ-9B Protector programme.

A maritime patrol variant of the system, SeaGuardian, is capable of supporting open-ocean and littoral surface surveillance activities.

All variants of the RPA have been designed to fly in excess of 35 hours with airspeeds up to 210k, and to reach altitudes of more than 40,000ft, GA-ASI stated.

The MQ-9B is a Stanag 4671 (Nato airworthiness standard for UAS) compliant version of the Predator B product line, according to the company.

The qualification testing for type-certification of MQ-9B will continue over the next two years, with plans to begin deliveries to the RAF early in the next decade.