General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has planned to conduct the first transatlantic flight of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
The MQ-9B unmanned aircraft is slated to fly between 10 and 11 July from GA-ASI’s Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, US, to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) air station in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
GA-ASI has partnered with global mobile satellite communications (SATCOM) provider Inmarsat to carry out the transatlantic flight.
Inmarsat will provide its SwiftBroadband SATCOM for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian’s ground control station to communicate with and control the aircraft.
The SATCOM will also be used in the final configuration of the unmanned aircraft for capabilities such as automatic take-off and landing.
GA-ASI chief executive officer Linden Blue said: “GA-ASI is proud to have supported the RAF over the past decade with our MQ-9 Reaper.
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“In honour of the RAF100 celebration, and to demonstrate a new standard in RPA flight endurance, we will fly SkyGuardian across the Atlantic.
“Given the distinguished 100-year history of the RAF, we believe that this flight is an appropriate way to celebrate the RAF’s position as a leader in innovation.”
As the latest variant of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B fleet, the MQ-9B RPA 9B is a ‘certifiable’ (STANAG 4671-compliant) version of the MQ-9 Predator B product line.
The aircraft has been developed under a company-funded effort to address the strict airworthiness type-certification requirements of different military and civil authorities, including the UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In May last year, MQ-9B SkyGuardian set a 48-hour continuous flight endurance record for the company’s Predator aircraft series.
GA-ASI conducted the first FAA-approved flight of the RPA later that year in August. The aircraft flew through non-segregated civil airspace from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, through National Airspace, to its Gray Butte Flight Operations facility near Palmdale, California.