General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI) has flown a new MQ-9 reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to a customer location for the first time at Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico.

Conventionally, the aircraft when delivered is packed and shipped by the company. Once delivered, it is reassembled at the customer location.

Flying to Holloman AFB, the delivery of the aircraft saved costs and time invested for shipping. Time required for reassembly was also reduced.

This made the reaper aircraft available for training immediately upon arrival.

The flight took off from GA-ASI’s Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, California and flew through the National Airspace System (NAS).

Combined efforts of the Holloman AFB air crews ensured the successful ferry of the aircraft.

GA-ASI president David Alexander said: “GA-ASI continues to lead the charge towards enabling large unmanned aircraft to fly in the NAS.

“Our efforts, along with other partners, are gaining momentum and successfully flying the MQ-9 to our US Air Force (USAF) customer further demonstrates the safety and efficiency of RPA flight in the broader airspace.”

According to the USAF, the process of flying the aircraft for delivery has been estimated to save 142-man hours.

49th Operations Group commander colonel Casey Tidgewell said: “This is the first time that team Holloman has taken delivery of a new MQ-9 by ferry flight.

“It’s critically important because flying outside of our training area helps normalize RPA flight inside the NAS and provides broader aviation experience for our instructors. I could not be more proud of our operations and maintenance professionals that made this happen.”