A remote-controlled aircraft, also known as a drone or unmanned aerial vehicle, took off from North Dakota in the United States and touched down at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucestershire, England. The aircraft, belonging to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. flew 3,760 nautical miles over the Atlantic and touched base 24 hours and 2 minutes later after lifting off on July 10.
According to National Defense Magazine, the General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian arrived in the U.K. to celebrate ten years since RAF acquired a General Atomics Reaper drone. It is also to mark the 100th anniversary of RAF existence. The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is part of the company’s Predator B fleet, and its maritime surveillance variant is known as SeaGuardian. MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be put on display July 13-15 at the Royal International Air Tatoo airshow currently ongoing in Fairford.
“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,” Linden Blue, General Atomics chief executive told the BBC. “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 and our U.K. industry partners.”
General Atomics collaborated with Inmarsat, a global mobile satellite communications company, to enable SkyGuardian to make the trans-Atlantic flight successful. Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband SATCOM was used to remotely control the aircraft from the U.S. as it proceeded to its destination in the U.K.
SkyGuardian, which has a wingspan of 79 feet (24 meters) and can fly over 48 hours non-stop, has a “collision avoidance system that allows unrestricted operations in all classes of civil airspace.”
The aircraft scores high on the certification requirements of both the U.K. Military Airworthiness Authority and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This means it complies with military and civil airworthiness certifications. Its development was the successful result of a five-year production effort.