• GA-ASI has conducted the first automated landing of an RPA. GA-ASI
    GA-ASI has conducted the first automated landing of an RPA. GA-ASI

The USAF has completed the first-ever automated landing of an MQ-9 Reaper UAS, followed by the first auto-takeoff a few days later.

The new Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) to enhance mission capability.

“This new, all-weather capability greatly increases the autonomy, flexibility, combat effectiveness and safety of the MQ-9 Reaper for the USAF,” David Alexander, president of Aircraft Systems for GA-ASI, said.

“Adding this level of automation will reduce the deployment burden of the warfighter and expand the scope of missions that can be flown by Air Force MQ-9s.”

Automating the takeoff and landing of the Reaper helps to increase the safety and efficiency of air crews. The auto launch and recovery during these flight phases also enlarges the operational envelope for cross wind operations as well as divert field landing.

GA-ASI is a contendor for Air 7003, which will provide RAAF with a medium-altitude long-endurance UAS as well as ground control stations.

Other contendors for Air 7003 include IAI's Heron TP UAS. The RAAF operated the Heron 1 in Afghanistan before retiring the platform in 2017. 

The competition has heated up in recent months as the British and Dutch chose Reaper variants for their armed forces, whilst Germany opted for the Heron pending budgetary approval.

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