General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has conducted MQ-9B SeaGuardian remotely piloted aircraft’s (RPA) first approved point-to-point domestic flight.
The flight clearance was given by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and demonstrated the safety of uncrewed aerial system (UAS) flights in civil airspace.
CAA Airspace Regulator Tom Gratton said: “The Airspace Coordination Notice issued by the CAA for this series of demonstration flights in UK airspace is the largest and most meticulous we have ever produced so that the airspace integration of SeaGuardian is at the highest level of safety.”
The RPA took off from Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington to RAF Lossiemouth and the UK’s civilian air navigation service provider NATS controlled the flight.
According to NATS, the flight was controlled through more confined airspace when compared to previous UAS flights in the UK.
It required the transfer of control between multiple civil airspace sectors.
NATS Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Service Integration head Mark Watson said: “The procedures for this flight were close to what we do already with conventional crewed aircraft.
“This helped us validate that our existing methods of control are equally applicable to controlling remotely crewed aircraft, when the aircraft performs like SeaGuardian.”
The company-owned MQ-9B RPA is currently operating from RAF airfields as part of ongoing demonstrations being conducted by GA-ASI for the RAF.
These demonstrations will continue until the end of this month.
The flight series is aimed at demonstrating several operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including the platform’s advanced ISR capabilities, endurance, and interoperability with Nato partners.
The MQ-9B includes the GA-ASI produced SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA.
SeaGuardian is the maritime version of the SkyGuardian. A total of 16 Protector RG Mk1 RPA systems have been ordered by RAF as part of its Protector programme.
GA-ASI vice-president International Strategic Development Robert Schoeffling said: “We appreciate the cooperation and collaboration with the CAA and NATS in helping to move the industry forward.
“This successful flight paves the way not only for future operations of Protector in UK airspace, but also for other civil and commercial UAS flights.”