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RAF Waddington Welcome New High-Tech Protector Surveillance Drone

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High-Tech Protector Surveillance Drone Arrives at RAF Waddington for UK Trials

A new unmanned drone has arrived at Lincoln RAF Waddington as part of a trial. The new drone is capable of global surveillance missions. The new addition to the RAF has caused excitement with plane spotters in Lincolnshire.


The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is set to enhance its surveillance capabilities with the arrival of the MQ-9B Protector, a cutting-edge high-tech drone.

The first of 16 Protectors has landed at RAF Waddington in Lincoln, where it will undergo a series of rigorous trials before joining the RAF’s fleet.

The Protector, an upgrade on the older Reaper drone, boasts advanced features that enable it to track threats over land and sea, engage in counter-terrorism operations, and assist in search and rescue missions.

The MQ-9B Protector, developed by the United States defence corporation General Atomics, stands as a testament to the UK’s commitment to modernizing its surveillance, intelligence, and precision strike capabilities.

With a remarkable wingspan of 79 feet (24 meters), this high-tech drone is capable of carrying out missions across the globe. Its integration into the RAF’s fleet signifies a significant milestone in the country’s defence technology advancement.

Protector-RG-Mk1 at RAF Waddington
Image: UK MOD Crown Copyright 2023

James Cartlidge MP, the defence procurement minister for the UK government, emphasizes the importance of the Protector in monitoring and protecting against potential adversaries worldwide.

He said: “The UK’s world-class Protector aircraft will emphasise our ultra-modern surveillance, intelligence, and precision strike capabilities, ensuring we are ready to monitor and protect against potential adversaries around the globe.”

“With the first aircraft at RAF Waddington ready to begin trials, we will once again demonstrate how we are spearheading military defence technology.”

The first test will take place this week which will involve a circuit above RAF Waddington, alongside ground testing of the satellite links, taxi procedures, and take-off and landing trials.

These tests aim to ensure that the drone functions seamlessly and is ready for operational service by next year. The 31 Squadron, recently reformed specifically to operate the Protector, will play a crucial role in preparing for its deployment.

The Protector’s primary function lies in its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, this drone is designed to track threats and gather vital information over both land and sea. Its ability to engage in counter-terrorism operations strengthens the RAF’s capacity to combat emerging security challenges.

Additionally, the Protector is poised to provide invaluable support to the Coastguard in search and rescue missions, further enhancing the UK’s emergency response capabilities.

With the arrival of the MQ-9B Protector, the 31 Squadron has been reformed to operate the drone from RAF Waddington.

The squadron has a rich history, dating back to 1915, and has previously piloted the Tornado GR fighter jet.

Now, it will be responsible for operating the Protector and ensuring its seamless integration into RAF operations.

This new chapter in the squadron’s legacy reflects the ever-evolving nature of military technology and the RAF’s commitment to staying at the forefront of defence innovation.

Plane Spotters who visit RAF Wadidington in Lincoln are excitement about the new addition and are hoping to get a glimpse of the new drone.


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