Military Embedded Systems

UK global surveillance drone begins trials


October 24, 2023

Dan Taylor

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

UK global surveillance drone begins trials
Image courtesy UK Ministry of Defence

LINCOLNSHIRE, United Kingdom. The first of 16 Protector uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) has arrived at RAF Waddington, ready to initiate a series of comprehensive trials in the UK, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defence.

The Ministry of Defence says these trials will precede the aircraft's integration into the Royal Air Force's operational fleet, with an expected in-service date in late 2024.

The Protector UAS features a suite of surveillance equipment, enabling it to perform a wide array of tasks ranging from land and maritime surveillance to aiding UK civil authorities in missions such as search and rescue operations, the statement reads, adding that the aircraft has a wingspan of 79 feet, an operating ceiling of 40,000 feet, and an endurance surpassing 30 hours.

The Protector will be remotely operated from RAF Waddington, and the initial phase of the trials is set to cover ground testing of satellite links, taxi procedures, as well as take-off and landing maneuvers, which will include a circuit above RAF Waddington. Gradually, the aircraft will assume roles currently fulfilled by the Reaper UAS, while also meeting NATO safety and certification standards for operation in civilian airspace in the UK and Europe, the statement continues.

The remaining 15 Protector aircraft, manufactured by General Atomics in the United States, will be delivered to the UK in phased intervals, with completion anticipated by the end of 2025, the Ministry of Defence states.

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