CM – MQ-9B makes first point-to-point flight for an unmanned aircraft in British airspace


The SkyGuardian / SeaGuardian is currently flying a number of European demonstrations out of the UK. (Krone Copyright)

The UK approved for the first time a point-to-point flight of an unmanned aircraft in national airspace, which would allow General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian / SeaGuardian , from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington in England to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

The manufacturer announced the milestone on September 16, stating that the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would cancel the SkyGuardian / SeaGuardian flight on September 12th, which was controlled by National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

« The Airspace Coordination Notice issued by the CAA for this series of demonstration flights in UK airspace is the largest and most thorough we have ever drawn up, so that SeaGuardian’s airspace integration takes place at the highest level of security, ”Tom Gratton, CAA Airspace Regulator, was quoted as saying. According to Robert Schöffling, Vice President for International Strategic Development at GA-ASI, « This successful flight paves the way not only for Protector’s future operations in British airspace, but also for other civil and commercial [unmanned aircraft] flights. »

As noted by GA-ASI, the flight was in more complex airspace than any previous unmanned aerial vehicle flight in the UK. « On this flight we had to transfer control between several civil airspace sectors, » said Mark Watson, Head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Service Integration at NATS. “The procedures on this flight were similar to conventional aircraft with a crew. This helped us to confirm that our existing control methods are equally applicable to controlling aircraft with remote crews – when the aircraft is functioning like [SkyGuardian /] SeaGuardian. « 

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