SeaGuardian makes first point-to-point flight in UK

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. flew its MQ-9B SeaGuardian® remotely piloted aircraft from Lincolnshire, England to Moray, Scotland on September 12, 2021.

It was the first time that the UK Civil Aviation Authority has approved a point-to-point domestic flight of an unmanned aircraft using the UK airway structure.

The GA-ASI-owned RPA flew from Royal Air Force Waddington to RAF Lossiemouth and the SeaGuardian flight was controlled by NATS, the UK’s civilian air navigation service provider.

“The airspace coordination advisory issued by the CAA for this series of demonstration flights in UK airspace is the largest and most meticulous we have ever produced to ensure that the integration of space of SeaGuardian is at the highest level of safety, ”said Tom Gratton, CAA Airspace. Regulator.

“We appreciate the cooperation and collaboration with CAA and NATS to help move the industry forward,” said Robert Schoeffling, vice president of international strategic development for GA-ASI. “This successful flight paves the way not only for Protector’s future operations in UK airspace, but also for other civil and commercial UAS flights.”

Protector RG Mk1 is the RAF designation for the RPA they ordered from GA-ASI which is based on the MQ-9B. The GA-ASI-owned civilian aircraft that performed this groundbreaking flight is operating from RAF airfields as part of a series of ongoing demonstrations conducted by GA-ASI for the RAF.

According to NATS, the flight was controlled in more complex airspace than any previous UAS flights in the UK. “This flight required us to transfer control between multiple sectors of civilian airspace,” said Mark Watson, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UTM) Traffic Management Services Integration Manager for NATS. “The procedures for this flight were close to what we already do with conventional manned aircraft. This allowed us to validate that our existing control methods are also applicable to the control of manned aircraft remotely, when the aircraft is operating as SeaGuardian. ”

Among the capabilities on display are GA-ASI’s revolutionary detection and avoidance system, a safety and situational awareness enhancement designed to support Protector’s flight in non-segregated UK airspace, as well as the platform’s ability to integrate into a wider European airspace. DAA will allow Protector to operate in normal air traffic in UK domestic airspace, unlike any other aircraft in its class. The demonstration flights also help RAF Waddington, the future headquarters of the RAF Protector Force, prepare and integrate the new aircraft into its daily operations.

Demonstrations continue until the end of September with the end of Exercise Joint Warrior. The aim of the flight series was to showcase the many operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including maritime intelligence, advanced platform surveillance and reconnaissance, advanced endurance and interoperability with NATO partners.

SeaGuardian is the maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian®. The RAF has ordered 16 Protector RG Mk1 RPA systems as part of its Protector program.


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