A remotely piloted US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft landed on February 22, 2015 at Avalon Airport in Victoria, Australia, marking the first time a high-altitude military UAV has flown into a non-military air base to be viewed by the general public.
The aircraft’s arrival at the 2015 Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defense Exposition enables civil authorities to personally see the high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of a platform that is critical to the region’s military balance.
“This is significant on a number of fronts,” noted Royal Australian Air Force air marshal Geoff Brown, the Chief of RAAF. “It is the first time a military unmanned aerial system (UAS) has been in civil airspace with a civil air traffic control service in Australia, and the first time a military UAS has landed at a civil airport. Additionally, we have a keen interest in seeing the RQ-4 up close given our recent acquisition of the MQ-4C Triton, which provides the needed capability to monitor and protect Australia’s vast ocean approaches.”
The safe arrival of the RQ-4 demonstrates that procedures developed in concert with the RAAF and civil air traffic control and aviation safety organizations can allow remotely-piloted aircraft to operate safely in civil airspace, in a similar manner to manned aircraft. This arrival can also help pave the way for safe operation of Australia’s newly acquired MQ-4 Triton.