GA-ASI Skyguardian Completes First Transatlantic Flight of MALE RPA
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, U.K. — A Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) made history as it landed at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, U.K., July 11 and became the first MALE RPA to successfully complete a transatlantic flight. The GA-ASI-owned MQ-9B SkyGuardian took off from Grand Forks, North Dakota, July 10. The flight covered 3,760 nautical miles in 24 hours 2 minutes.
“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,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “The successful flight of the MQ-9B is the culmination of the hard work and innovation of our dedicated employees, and the strong relationships that we enjoy with the RAF, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, the Royal International Air Tattoo [RIAT] and our U.K. industry partners such as Cobham.”
RAF Fairford will be the site of the RIAT airshow July 13-15. The MQ-9B will be on static display during the show.
Over the past 10 years, the RAF has operated GA-ASI’s MQ-9 Reaper RPA in support of the NATO and coalition operations. The RAF is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, so GA-ASI seized the opportunity to fly the newest MQ-9 version, MQ-9B to RIAT. The RAF configuration of MQ-9B will be called Protector RG Mk1.
MQ-9B is the next generation of GA-ASI’s multimission Predator B fleet. GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian. MQ-9B is a “type-certifiable” version of the MQ-9 Predator B product line. Its development is the result of a five-year, company-funded effort to deliver a RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of various military and civil authorities, including the U.K. Military Airworthiness Authority and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Type-certification, together with an extensively tested collision avoidance system, will allow unrestricted operations in all classes of civil airspace.
“The SkyGuardian transatlantic flight is a significant and exciting event for both GA-ASI and for the future capability of the RAF,” Paul Armstrong, senior vice president of Cobham Aviation Services U.K., said. “Cobham is proud to have a teaming agreement with GA-ASI for logistics and maintenance services, which builds on our present support of the Reaper Ground Control Stations. We look forward to working with both GA-ASI and the RAF as the Protector RG Mk1 comes into service.”