Drones Get Special Pod to Disappear Off Enemy Radars

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The pod, called the Reaper Defense Electronic Support System / Scalable Open Architecture Reconnaissance (RDESS/SOAR), was added by the US Marine Corps to its small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones to help in making it untraceable from enemy sensors.

The pod is designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges, as explained by General Atomics. The company states the SOAR pod provides long-range detection, identification, and location of radar and communication signals of interest, enabling the aircraft or drone operators to “provide standoff surveillance—seeing threats before threats can see the aircraft—and communicate actionable intelligence.” The 287.6 kg pod aids in long-range persistent surveillance of enemy communications and enables real-time multi-intelligence target identification and tracking.

The US Marine Corps is currently operating a small fleet of the General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” drones and plans to field at least 18 of them by 2025. They reportedly recently reached a critical milestone of having 100 trained pilots for these drones, and are aiming to extend the Corps’ drone-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

According to Interesting Engineering, the Reaper has an endurance of over 27 hours, can operate up to 15.24 km, and has a 1746 kg payload capacity that includes 1361 kg of external stores. It can be used for various surveillance and attack missions due to its ability to carry radar and different weapons according to operational needs.

The drone was designed with field-retrofittable capabilities like wing-borne fuel pods and a new reinforced landing gear that extends its endurance from 27 hours to 34 hours and increases its operational flexibility.

It is used by many militaries and air forces around the world, including the Italian and the French Air Forces, and multiple other countries lining up to use it. The addition of these pods could help it become an even deadlier and more desirable drone.