This is the first time a medium altitude, long endurance remotely piloted air system like Protector has flown across the Atlantic. 

The UK is the lead customer for the next-generation aircraft which will be known as the Protector RG Mk.1 when it enters service in the early 2020’s. Operated at all times by a fully qualified pilot, Protector is the World’s first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to manned aircraft.

The MoD say that the flight from North Dakota to Gloucestershire took over 20 hours and was the first across the Atlantic by a Medium Altitude RPAS and the first time one has entered UK airspace under beyond line-of-sight communication control.

The Protector, new Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS).

The Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP said:

“Protector’s first arrival in the UK is an exciting milestone in our mission to get the most advanced equipment to combat the intensifying threats that we face. With almost double the endurance of its predecessor and armed with the latest missiles and surveillance technology, this unmanned aircraft will not only give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield but will help us reach new heights to keep Britain safe at home and overseas.”

Air Vice-Marshal Rochelle, Chief of Staff Capability said:

“The first trans-Atlantic flight of the Protector reinforces the Royal Air Force as being at the forefront of cutting edge technology. Offering over 40 hours’ endurance Protector will provide the RAF with unrivalled intelligence gathering possibilities. The decision to expand our Remotely Piloted Air System fleet with this world leading aircraft will offer a game changing leap in capability and marks the next step in our modernisation in our 100th year.”

Protector is capable of supporting an array of homeland defence tasks, including Military Aid to Civil Authorities – for example search and rescue, disaster monitoring or flood prevention activities.

For the first flight across the Atlantic to succeed the RAF provided guidance, advice and supervision of UK airspace procedures. The aircraft will be placed on static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo, say the MoD.


  1. It was announced yesterday at the Air Power Conference that 31 Sqn will stand back up as a Protector sqn after the retirement of Tornado.

    • Why isn’t decent information like that reported on this website?

      Instead of a fresh article about shipbuilding in Scotland every 48 hours

      • Or maybe just the smallest mention of the RAF 100th anniversary and remembrance. Seems odd not to even have a paragraph on that versus the umpteenth Scottish shipbuilding article. Came here yesterday expecting something and maybe some links but instead took myself off to watch content on YouTube.

  2. According to on-line flight trackers, it circled for some time, prior to landing, to the north of my house. Unfortunately it didn’t come close enough for me to get a visual on it.

    • Because Protector has no ASW capability, indeed I’m not sure that it has been confirmed that we will buy a maritime version.

  3. Curious if anyone knows the status of the army’s Watchkeeper drone program? Last I read Royal Artillery personnel were training in Ascension due to better weather than Wales and a much less crowded airspace but that was some time ago. Also whether Watchkeeper is more capable of operation in controlled air space on a routine basis versus the one-off flight that seemed to have a lot of constraints and limitations around it.


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