The concept to use a Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) for Force Protection (FP) originated from a homegrown idea in the RAF Force Protection Centre (FPC), RAF Honington in 2017. The idea was initially supported by the Rapid Capability Office who provided funding to trial three different commercial off-the-shelf types of RPAS. Known as AMYNTAS, initial Testing and Evaluation of the different RPAS, including extensive experiments conducted with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, found the Aeryon SkyRanger to be the most suitable platform.
Since 2019, the FP RPAS has been located at four UK Main Operating Bases and flown by RAF FP personnel. Capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, both day and night, the RPAS can switch between High Definition 30x Zoom, Electro Optical and InfraRed cameras in order to locate intruders. Unique in Defence, the FP RPAS has been fully integrated into segregated airspace and operates alongside well-known RAF platforms such as the F35, Typhoon and A400M.
FP Force Senior Operator Flight Lieutenant Rob Clarke said:
The FP Force remains innovative in all it does; by embracing technology today we are engaged in ASTRA, the campaign to build a Next Generation Air Force for 2035. World-leaders in Air FP development, the RAF FP Centre continues to advance the use of RPAS alongside commercial and technical improvements.
As part of the ongoing development, the FP RPAS has provided direct support to the UK’s COVID 19 response, assisted with structural inspections and supported the recovery of an Army Air Corps Helicopter following a forced landing. Always striving for further advancement, the Military Aviation Authority approved trials of extended visual line of sight flying, which will increase the operational reach of the RPAS.
Senior Operators and Remote Pilots undergo an initial one-week Civil Aviation Authority approved course, which awards a National Qualified Entity Certificate. These individuals are then required to complete a conversion to type course held at the RAF FPC. Due to the unique nature of operating in the Complex Air Ground Environment (CAGE), the RAF FPC is currently designing an RPAS operators’ course, which will address the specific needs of FP operations. Extremely capable, the FP RPAS greatly enhances the ability of the FP Force to protect the RAF's people and assets, both at home and overseas.
FP Centre WO/FP RPAS Chief Instructor - WO Ian Galloway said:
‘In my 36 years’ service it’s rare to just find something that I know simply works; the FP RPAS is that piece of equipment. In trials we were able to find enemy intruders in a matter of seconds, thereby greatly reducing the risk to RAF personnel and its assets.