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RAF expects to fly Protector in civil airspace from 2024

Seen on its maiden UK flight held within the confines of RAF Waddington earlier in November, the Protector RG1 will be able to operate throughout civil controlled airspace from 2024. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) expects to be able to fly the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B Protector RG1 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in civil controlled airspace from 2024, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Janes on 21 November.

Answering a question days after the first Protector flew its maiden UK flight over the type's future home operating base of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, the MoD said it is now waiting on the military certification that is needed before the unmanned aircraft can operate as required throughout the country and beyond.

“The programme is looking to obtain a Military Type Certificate from the MAA [Military Aviation Authority] next year,” the MoD said. “Until Protector is certified, it will only be able to operate in segregated airspace, however, this will not be confined to [the airspace above RAF] Waddington.”

On 17 November the MoD announced that the first of 16 Protectors to be delivered to RAF Waddington had flown the type's first sortie in national airspace, with the aircraft flying within the confines of the base and under the control of a pilot on the ground.

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