The new Protector drone that could join the UK’s front line of defence has been spotted taking its first flights from RAF Lossiemouth.
Enthusiasts gathered on the perimeter of the Moray base to get a glimpse of the Protector aircraft on Tuesday.
The drone, which is also known as SkyGuardian, is due to enter permanent service for the RAF in 2024 with 16 ordered from manufacturers.
A pre-production model of Protector has arrived at RAF Lossiemouth this week for military bosses to assess its capabilities in a marine environment.
The drone has already flown training sorties from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which will become its permanent home.
While at RAF Lossiemouth, Protector will also be taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior, which is one of the largest war games exercises of its kind in the world and comprises personnel from several different countries.
What will Protector be used for?
The Ministry of Defence says Protector will be used for armed intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
It is intended as the long-term successor to Reaper, which is currently used by the military on operations in Iraq and Syria.
Once in operation, the drone will be remotely piloted from the ground while on missions.
It is fitted with “detect and avoid technology” to allow it to fly in unsegregated airspace safely.
Special facilities are being built at RAF Waddington to allow the drone to be deployed across the world when needed.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, said: “The Protector aircraft is a huge leap forward in performance and autonomous technology.
“It can fly for 40 hours anywhere in the world, providing critical surveillance and precision strike to protect the UK and our allies.
As the lead customer for this aircraft, I am delighted the Royal Air Force is once again at the cutting edge of air power innovation.”