RPAs Fly Long-Duration Test with Repurposed Satellites

MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers controlled from Creech AFB, Nev., conducted the first long-duration test of remotely piloted aircraft using repurposed satellites late last year, according to a Feb. 10 release. A test team with the 53rd Test Management Group, Det. 4, successfully demonstrated that inclined orbit satellites, or “older satellites that lack the fuel to maintain a fixed geostationary location,” could be used to implement beyond line-of-sight capabilities while providing some 50 percent savings over a typical lease period, according to the release. Predators and Reapers being tested by the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., already have implemented the necessary tracking software, states the release. The wing also is working with the 17th Test Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., to obtain necessary data from military sources rather than commercial sources, minimizing the chance of errors and ensuring antennas point in the right direction, states the release. “Increased [inclined orbit] SATCOM use, depending on availability, will further reduce the Air Force’s total annual SATCOM costs, and [Air Combat Command] plans to expand its use after sufficient evaluation,” said Col. Brian Pierson, the plans, programs, and requirements directorate chief for the ISR weapons systems division.