In collaboration with the California Air National Guard (CA ANG), National Guard Bureau (NGB), AT&T FirstNet, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully completed a flight demonstration of the Rosetta Echo Advanced Payloads (REAP) Pod on an MQ-9A Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). During natural disasters, it’s fairly common for first responders and residents of affected areas to lose cellular communications due to downed infrastructure. The REAP Pod provides potentially lifesaving communications infrastructure from an aircraft, ensuring lines of communication remain open between providers of emergency services and those desperately needing assistance.
This flight demonstration, held on May 25, 2023, showcased bridged communications networks providing seamless connectivity between airborne and ground participants. The system showcased the ability to bridge VHF/UHF networks, function as a P25 repeater, connect geographically disparate mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs), and most importantly, provide both FirstNet and emergency 911 cellular capabilities. As California heads into its heavy wildfire season, the REAP Pod on CA ANG MQ-9As will provide needed communications to support CAL FIRE’s rescue efforts.
“GA-ASI is excited to showcase the capabilities of the REAP Pod,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Mission Payloads and Exploitation Satish Krishnan. “The CA ANG MQ-9As with REAP can ensure CAL FIRE and other first responders maintain critical communications infrastructure at a time when it’s most urgently needed and can help save lives.”
The REAP Pod was developed through a collaboration between GA-ASI and Ultra Intelligence and Communications. The system features a suite of advanced communications equipment that helps support disaster relief operations, including VHF/UHF Line of Sight (LOS), P25, MANET, FirstNet Cellular, and a high-bandwidth LOS backhaul. The REAP pod also has the ability to support military waveforms like Link 16.
As manufacturer of the REAP Pod, GA-ASI aims to ensure the successful initial deployment of the pod as an operational proof of concept. This deployment serves a larger objective by advancing the implementation and effectiveness of the REAP Pod and setting the stage for potential adoption by the Air National Guard on the MQ-9A and the Army National Guard on MQ-1C Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).