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First transatlantic drone flight due to land in UK next month

It has a wingspan of 79ft and can fly non-stop for more than 40 hours.

The first transatlantic drone flight to land in the UK will touch down next month.

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) will take off from its base in North Dakota, America, and embark on a 4,000-mile journey to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, scheduled to arrive on July 11.

It has a wingspan of 79ft and can fly non-stop for more than 40 hours.

An operator located at the aerospace company’s flight test and training centre in Grand Forks will pilot the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9B SkyGuardian.

The drone is due to arrive in advance of the Royal International Air Tattoo running from July 13 to July 15.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has approved the flight in UK airspace and has issued guidance to pilots and aircraft operators to take note of a series of airspace restrictions that will be put in place over certain areas of the UK to ensure its safe journey.

The RAF is due to bring into service the UK variant of MQ-9B SkyGuardian, known as PROTECTOR RG Mk1, which will increase its long-range surveillance and precision strike capabilities.

It will feature in the static park as part of the Air Tattoo’s celebration of the RAF’s centenary.

A spokesman for the CAA said: “The CAA supports the safe development of Remotely Piloted Aircraft in the UK as they can bring many benefits.

“We have worked closely with General Atomics, NATS and the armed forces to safely accommodate the SkyGuardian into UK airspace.”

Air Tattoo chief executive Andy Armstrong said: “Remotely piloted aircraft, for both civilian and military use, are clearly an important part of aviation’s future landscape.

“We are already seeing a rapid growth in smaller airframes being used recreationally, for aerial photography and they have been used effectively in local search and rescue operations.

“We watch with great interest as further commercial applications are explored.”

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