General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI)’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) has successfully completed its first trans-Atlantic flight.
Taking off from the company’s Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, US, the unmanned aircraft landed at the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) air station in Fairford, Gloucestershire, after covering 3,760nm in 24 hours and two minutes.
Currently, the GA-ASI SkyGuardian is the world’s first medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) RPA to complete a trans-Atlantic flight.
GA-ASI chief executive officer Linden Blue said: “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.”
The RAF is acquiring the MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA as part of its Protector RG Mk1 programme.
In order to carry out the flight successfully, mobile satellite communications (SATCOM) provider Inmarsat delivered its SwiftBroadband SATCOM for the RPA’s ground control station to communicate with and control the aircraft.
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SwiftBroadband will also be used in the final configuration of the aircraft to offer upgraded capabilities such as automatic take-off and landing.
As the latest variant of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B fleet, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA is a ‘certifiable’ STANAG 4671-compliant version of the MQ-9 Predator B product line.
Capable of carrying multiple mission payloads, the highly modular aircraft features an advanced detect and avoid system, including space, weight and power provisions, in order to facilitate the retrofitting of an airborne due regard radar for operation in non-cooperative airspace.