New LEO SATCOM Capability Tested on MQ-9A RPAS

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems successfully flight-tested a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) SATCOM capability on board an MQ-9A Reaper By Phoebe Grinter / 09 Feb 2023
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At the end of 2022, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and the Air National Guard, with support from the US Marine Corps and US Air Force, flight tested an MQ-9A Reaper Remotely Piloted Aerial System (RPAS) equipped with a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) SATCOM command and control system. 

According to GA-ASI, this capability provides global coverage and connectivity that will enable pole-to-pole operations for the company’s family of RPAS – including models such as the MQ-9B SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian, Gray Eagle 25M, and the MQ-9A Reaper.

“This is truly game-changing for our platforms,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “Using LEO SATCOM not only keeps GA-ASI aircraft connected from the North Pole to the South Pole to allow operations in the most austere environments, but it will also provide resilient connectivity that allows operators to pass much more data to and from the aircraft.”

Early testing indicates LEO SATCOM significantly reduces latency and can be used in all phases of flight. For customers across the MQ-9 family of systems, LEO SATCOM should decrease operational costs, and the smaller hardware footprint will ultimately increase flexibility and reduce future payload integration costs.

The MQ-9A flight test was based out of GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif., and followed several weeks of ground testing.

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Posted by Phoebe Grinter Unmanned Systems Technology’s digital editor and copywriter Phoebe takes a fresh and enthusiastic approach to researching, writing and posting the latest unmanned technology updates, and in managing the UST social channels. Connect & Contact