GA-ASI completes first trans-Atlantic flight of a MALE RPA



General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that its MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has become the first Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) RPA to successfully complete a trans-Atlantic flight.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian took off from Grand Forks, North Dakota on July 10, and flew 3,760 nautical miles in 24 hours and two minutes. The MALE RPA landed at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK on July 11.

“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,” says 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 UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and our UK industry partners such as Cobham.”

In support of the NATO and Coalition operations, the RAF has operated GA-ASI’s MQ-9 Reaper RPA over the last ten years. With the RAF celebrating its 100-year anniversary (RAF100), GA-ASI took 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.

GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian. MQ-9B, which is the next generation of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B fleet, is a “type-certifiable” (STANAG 4671-compliant) version of the MQ-9 Predator B product line.

The aircraft's 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 different military and civil authorities, including the UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) and the U.S. FAA.

Type-certification, along with an extensively tested collision avoidance system, will allow unrestricted operations in all classes of civil airspace.