The US Marine Corps (USMC) recently completed a training course focused on operating the MQ-9A Block 5 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), also known as the Reaper drone.

This wasn’t your average drone pilot training, however. The Marines who participated were part of the prestigious Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course 2-24, a grueling seven-week program designed to create elite instructors well-versed in advanced air and ground tactics.

SkyTower I: Boosting Drone Communication

What makes this training, which was completed on April 20, 2024, even more interesting is the integration of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.’s (GA-ASI) SkyTower I pod. This USMC-specific payload is essentially a high-tech communication booster for the MQ-9A.

SkyTower I provides a commercial-grade Wi-Fi network, extending the reach of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s (MAGTF) existing network.

Think of it as a powerful signal repeater, allowing geographically separated Marine units to stay connected and share critical information.

This enhanced communication capability is a game-changer for the Marines. Imagine a scenario where a ground unit needs real-time intel from a drone overhead, but challenging terrain disrupts the usual signal.