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MQ-9B drone flown through U.S. civilian airspace

General Atomics flew the remotely piloted aircraft through unrestricted airspace for just under two hours after receiving clearance from the FAA.

By
Richard Tomkins
GA-SI's MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft, which the company recently flew on an FAA-approved flight through unrestricted U.S. airspace for about two hours last week. Photo courtesy of GA-ASI
GA-SI's MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft, which the company recently flew on an FAA-approved flight through unrestricted U.S. airspace for about two hours last week. Photo courtesy of GA-ASI

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- An MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft has been flown through unrestricted U.S. airspace by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., the company announced last week.

The MQ-9B, which has the NATO airworthiness standard for unmanned aircraft systems, was flown earlier this month from Laguna Airfield at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., to a Flight Operations facility near Palmdale, Calif.

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GA-ASI said the aircraft was approved by Federal Aviation Administration for the one-hour, 45-minute flight through various classes of non-restricted airspace.

"This flight is another milestone in our progression towards delivering an RPA system that meets NATO airworthiness requirements for UAS," Linden Blue, chief executive officer at GA-ASI, said in a press release. "MQ-9B SkyGuardian will be the first RPA system of its kind with a design-assurance level compliant with international type-certification standards, and can therefore be integrated more easily than legacy RPAs into civil airspace operations around the world."

In other company developments, GA-ASI is also officially opening a new hanger on Monday at its test and training center at Grand Sky Unmanned Aircraft System Business Park near Grand Forks, N.D.

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