Combat Drone Makes Trans-Atlantic History

The Protector set off from a base in North Dakota to land at RAF Fairford...

A remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) has made history after flying non-stop across the Atlantic, from North Dakota to RAF Fairford.

The Protector RG Mk.1, also known as the MQ-9B SkyGuardian by its manufacturer, General Atomics, has become the first-ever trans-Atlantic flight of a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.

The aircraft touched down at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire after setting off from a test facility in North Dakota.

With a wingspan of 79ft, it is able to fly non-stop for more than 40 hours.

Combat drone lands in UK after historic trans-Atlantic flight

Protector was flown by its US-based ground control station and entered UK airspace under beyond-line-of-sight communication control.

The drone will be on show as part of the static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo from 13-15 July at RAF Fairford.

Protector was controlled by personnel at a North Dakota-based ground control station before its automatic landing at Fairford.

The same service also provides route selections for the long-endurance flights, while supporting mission-critical and time-sensitive data transmission, including imagery and video.

Kai Tang from the company supplying the communication service said: "This is a truly historical event made possible by ingenuity and impressive integration."

Linden Blue, CEO at GA-ASI, said: "To demonstrate the long endurance of unmanned aircraft systems, we took on the challenge of flying a MALE RPA across the Atlantic.

"This effort has taken a lot of coordination and we appreciate the support of the CAA, RIAT organisation and the RAF in this endeavour."

The Protector is expected to enter UK service in the early 2020s and will replace the Reaper with enhanced armed surveillance abilities, including extended range, increased payload and planned integration of UK weapons.