Military Embedded Systems

Electronic sensing payload added to MQ-9 Reaper mission capabilities


April 23, 2021

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

GA-ASI photo.

POWAY, Calif. The U.S. Air Force, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), and L3Harris Technologies have collaborated to further expand the mission capabilities of the U.S. Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).

According to officials, crews from the Air Force’s 26th Weapons Squadron (WPS) flew an MQ-9 equipped with the Reaper Defense Electronic Support System (RDESS). The flights were conducted in parallel with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstrations recently in Europe.

RDESS is a broad spectrum, passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) payload designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges. With it, the Reaper's surveillance capabilities are further enabled to conduct electronic sensing to provide high-quality intelligence.

The flights were accomplished via remote split operations that allowed the 26th WPS to both fly the aircraft and control the RDESS payload from within the United States while the MQ-9 flew in Europe. Additionally, officials claim the aircraft flew with a high-capacity, solid-state digital recorder to collect Multi-Spectral Targeting pod data that will be used to further artificial intelligence and machine learning development.


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