A General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9B UAV has taxied, taken off, and landed using only its satellite communications (SATCOM) data link.
The company says that its Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) eliminates the need for a ground control station located near the aircraft's base. This will "drastically reduce airlift requirements when the RPA (remotely-piloted aircraft) is forward deployed".
The work took place in December 2017 from GA-ASI's Gray Butte flight operations centre near Palmdale California, with the aircraft operated from Laguna Army Airfield in Yuma, Arizona.
Using SATCOM, the team was able to taxi the aircraft, and initiate six auto-takeoff and landing events.
"SATCOM ATLC enables taxi, launch and recovery operations from anywhere in the world and will reduce required aircrew manpower and Launch and Recovery Element footprints," says GA-ASI.
"With trained RPA aircrew only required at the mission control element GCS location, the overall operating cost of the RPA is reduced. It also enables rapid self-deployment of aircraft to any global runway with a Global Positioning System (GPS) surveyed file."