Reaper Drone Tested with System That Allows It to Spy From Very Far Away

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper 9 photos
Photo: General Atomics
General Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 ReaperGeneral Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
Ever since 2007, America’s enemies have an incredible piece of machinery to fear. It’s the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone, a hunter-killer that is also capable of remote surveillance. As of possibly this year, it’s capabilities will be getting even more frightening.
Earlier in April, drone pilots from the Air Force’s 26th Weapons Squadron (WPS) got into their piloting stations in the U.S. and started commanding an MQ-9 drone located all the way in Europe. This was no ordinary Reaper, as it came equipped with something called RDESS.

RDESS stands for Reaper Defense Electronic Support System and it is described as “a broad spectrum passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) payload designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges.”

It was for the first time the drone was equipped with such a system, and the exercise was meant to prove the machine can safely gather data from very far away, spying on the target from international airspace – the maker of the drone, General Atomics, did not specifically say how big the distance from drone to target was.

The goal of the exercise was to see how much the capabilities of the drone could improve, but the results of the run are of course not public. Also, General Atomics did not say when or if RDESS will become standard equipment for the Reaper.

The Reaper (named Predator B when it is equipped with weapons) is officially designated as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). It is a turboprop-powered machine that uses a Honeywell engine that makes it capable of staying in the air for 27 hours (34 hours for the extended range variant) at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet (15 km).

Presently, there are over 200 of them flying in the world’s sky in the service of the USAF, Royal Air Force, the air forces of Italy, France and Spain, NASA, and the Department of Homeland Security.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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