The U.S. Air Force's 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron has proven the readiness of an automatic takeoff and landing system for the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a two-day flight test from Creech AF Base in Nevada to two separate destinations.
USAF said Thursday the unmanned aircraft used cockpit-fitted imagery technology and a targeting pod to survey runways for uncontrolled liftoff and touchdown without the help of any traditional launch and recovery crew on site.
The drone took off and landed by itself during trips to Cannon and Holloman bases in New Mexico, with flight control by airmen at Nellis AFB in Nevada.
Under traditional procedures, airmen must first electronically identify reference points when the Reaper is in position on the runway before or after a flight.
However, with ATLC making human assistance during deployment unnecessary, the military service expects the MQ-9 to be sent to a foreign location for the first time even in the absence of any specialized infrastructure as part of its Agile Combat Employment Strategy.
The Air Force awaits an upcoming MQ-9 software update and a new portable aircraft control station to truly change how the unmanned aircraft will be deployed to theaters around the world.