July 15 (UPI) — The MQ-9 Reaper’s automatic takeoff and landing capability has successfully been tested, which officials say could significantly expand the missions it is used for, the Air Force said on Thursday.
Previously, the aircraft was required to land at the airfield of operation, but the aircraft can now divert to other landing locations while aircrew controls it via satellite.
The U.S. Air Force announced that the capability is a key component in deciding how the aircraft will be deployed in theaters worldwide.
The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron conducted a two-day test, taking the MQ-9 from Creech Air Force Base to Cannon AFB in New Mexico. The crew operated at Nellis AFB — nearly 60 miles away from the aircraft.
In May, the drone aircraft got battlefield and airspace enhancements, as well as improvements to its target identification tracking and processing.
In the months prior, it received upgrades to its anti-jamming properties, available electrical power and an open architecture design of its platform.