The US Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system (UAS) has successfully completed its first round trip flight from Northrop’s Palmdale manufacturing facility.

During the flight, the RQ-4, also known as the AF-20, soared at altitudes of 58,300ft for nearly four hours and 18 minutes.

With this successful flight, the AF-20 has become the eighth consecutive production Global Hawk to complete its operational check flight on the first attempt.

During the mission, a sixth air force mission control element and a King Air chase aircraft were also used for the first time.

Global Hawk programme director Steve Amburgey said that after logging more than 30,000 combat hours since its first deployment nine years ago Global Hawk was a highly sought-after intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system in theatre.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system with an integrated sensor suite. It provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability across the world.