For large drones like the Reaper, X-47, and aircraft like that, how do the "pilots" communicate with ATC when they need to?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ they don't the guy flying it does $\endgroup$ May 6, 2016 at 21:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak: By phone using only ground channels from pilot location to ATC? Or do they use the done radio? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 6, 2016 at 22:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My guess is they don't. They're usually used over foreign soil where the whole idea is that nobody knows they're there. If they're flying around the home country for training or something they probably stay within an active MOA. I don't think they're flying them around cross-country. Although it would be interesting to see one landing at LAX. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    May 7, 2016 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 7, 2016 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ "On 18 September 2014, the Triton successfully conducted an 11-hour cross-country flight from Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, California facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. ... The aircraft flew a pre-approved instrument route along the southern U.S. border" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$
    – nobody
    May 7, 2016 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


They have an onboard VHF radio that can be used to receive and transmit on local frequencies.

For example, on the MQ-1B Predator you will see a small fin on the back of the aircraft behind the GPS dome. That is an omni-directional antenna which can transmit VHF. The Global Hawk has a similar capability.


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