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.

“In May last year, MQ-9B SkyGuardian set a 48-hour continuous flight endurance record for the company’s Predator aircraft series.”

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.