US spy drone flies in UK airspace for first time

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A US spy drone has flown through UK airspace for the first time, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) 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.

The MoD said the unmanned aerial vehicle flew on a course from a base in Italy, through southern Europe then via UK airspace to Norway before returning.

The flights took place in controlled and segregated airspace at heights of approximately 50,000 feet, well above the cruising altitude of commercial airliners, the MoD said.

Officials said the flights made a useful contribution to understanding how remotely-piloted air systems (RPAS) could be safely integrated within the existing aviation framework.

Air Vice Marshal Phil Osborn said: "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.

"This trial will have helped with the development of the Nato alliance ground surveillance system (AGS) and the future airspace integration of RPAS."

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 attacks.

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