Electronic eyes in the skies

Tiny UAVs Making a Big Difference (14 March 2005 entry)

Strategy Page has a great post up on the RQ-11A Raven mini UAV.

At 4.2 pounds, and costing $25,000 each, the Raven can stay in the air for 80 minutes at a time. It is battery powered, and carries a color day vidcam, or a two color infrared night camera. Both cameras broadcast real time video back to the operator, who controls the Raven via a laptop computer. The Raven can go as fast as 90 kilometers an hour, but usually cruises between 40 and 50. It can go as far as 15 kilometers from its controller on the ground, and usually flies a preprogrammed route, using GPS for navigation.

This is the sort of thing that changing how wars are fought. New rifles and better armor improve our capability of fighting the traditional battles, but this real-time intel and the high-tech communications that relay it to whoever needs it allows our guys to act with far more certainty than ever before. They can react properly, feel secure about their activities with an “eye in the sky” on the lookout, and exploit enemy weaknesses with greater speed and precision than ever before.

While some Ravens have been shot down, the most common cause of loss is losing the communications link (as the aircraft flies out of range) or a software/hardware failure on the aircraft. Troops have taken to putting a label on each aircraft, saying, in the local language, that if the aircraft is returned to the nearest American military unit, there will be a reward. Several lost Ravens have been recovered this way.

Not all of them, though. A while back pictures of insurgents proudly showing off a lightweight drone they came into possession of somehow was posted on the internet. (I thought I had a link, but I can’t find it.) And that will happen with some Talon robots, as well.

Just as long as they don’t kidnap any more of our GI Joe action figures.