General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian N190TC made history on July 10-11 by undertaking the first transatlantic flight by a civiloperated medium-altitude long endurance unmanned air system. The aircraft departed the GA-ASI Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota on July 10 at 1248hrs local and flew to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, where it landed 24 hours and two minutes later. The flight was staged to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force, which is acquiring the MQ-9B as part of its Protector RG Mk1 programme.
For the transatlantic flight GA-ASI partnered with Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services provider Inmarsat, whose SwiftBroadband (SBB) satellite communications were used by the MQ-9B’s ground control station to communicate and control the aircraft. The SBB will also be used in the MQ-9B’s final configuration for automatic take-off and landing.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the latest version of the multimission Predator B, a certifiable STANAG 4671-compliant version of the MQ-9 Predator. GA-ASI says type-certification, together with an extensively tested collision avoidance system, will allow unrestricted operations in all classes of civil airspace. GA-ASI said the transatlantic flight was a “demonstration of the endurance and civil airspace capability of the MQ-9B”. Mark Broadbent