A US spy drone has flown through UK airspace for the first time to test how unmanned aerial vehicles could be integrated into the existing aviation framework, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.
The unarmed Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft flew through UK sovereign airspace on three occasions in the last month as part of a Nato exercise. Flying at the altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000m), the drone travelled well above the regular cruising altitude of commercial jets.
"It is good to see existing airspace procedures enabling the seamless integration of remotely-piloted air systems, such as the unarmed Global Hawk aircraft, within European airspace,” said Air Vice Marshal Phil Osborn.
"This trial will have helped with the development of the Nato alliance ground surveillance system (AGS) and the future airspace integration of remotely piloted air systems."
The unmanned aircraft flew from a base in Italy, through southern Europe then via UK airspace to Norway and back.
The AGS involves five Global Hawks acquired by 14 Nato countries, not including the UK, based at Sigonella air base in Italy,
The trial, codenamed Unified Vision, comes ahead of the Nato summit in Wales in September, where world leaders will gather to discuss issues including terrorism, piracy and cyber-security.