General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has demonstrated three expanded automatic take-off and landing capability (ATLC) enhancements for MQ-9A Reaper aircraft.

The demonstration was part of the ongoing US Air Force (USAF) contract for the MQ-9A aircraft modernisation.

With one enhancement, MQ-9A will be able to land at an airfield where is no ground control station (GCS). It will use satellite communication (SATCOM) control for its landing abilities.

The second enhancements include the expansion of cross-wind limits of the aircraft, while the third will increase the maximum landing weight for normal and emergency landings.

The added divert landing feature will permit the remote pilot aircraft to automatically land at the selected location according to the coordinates provided.

Using MQ-9A’s multispectral electro-optical / infrared (EO/IR) sensor, pilots can self-survey the divert airfield’s runway.

Once upgraded, the MQ-9A aircrew will enable the ATLC system to allow the aircraft to autonomously manoeuvre itself into a landing pattern and make the landing automatic.

GA-ASI president David Alexander said: “This achievement will enable operational MQ-9A’s to land at alternate airfields, on their own, in case of inclement weather, changing mission requirements, or damaged runways. These upgrades will improve mission-effectiveness tremendously.

“All three enhancements provide MQ-9A aircrews with increased runway options, as well as expanded weather tolerances that greatly improve mission flexibility, operational availability and time on station. It will also lead to a substantial reduction in aircrew.”

Recently, GA-ASI secured a contract for the upgrade of the US ANG’s MQ-9 Block 1 and Block 5 RPA and GCS. The $12.1m contract will include Block 25 Dual Control Module GCS (DCMGCS) and Block 30 GCS.