CAMP PENDLETON — Marines, with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, recently learned to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle.
The training is to help Marines familiarize themselves with the RQ-11A Raven UAV and its components.
The $35,000 Raven is a small hand-launched UAV. It is 4.2 pounds, 36 inches long and has a wing span of 55 inches. It can be carried by a team of two or three Marines during reconnaissance.
Robert Cox, an instructor from Applied Techniques Corporation, said the Raven is unique because of its size. With the Raven weighing less than five pounds, he says it’s an ideal tool for small units to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance or intelligence missions.
“It is definitely key for deployment because it’s a UAV you can bring along with you in your pack,” said Cpl. Joel Bruce, fire support man with 1st ANGLICO.
The UAVs modest size allows it to be battery operated while maintaining a large operational range. Marines don’t have to carry fuel, only rechargeable batteries.
Bruce added it is a perfect asset for any Marine out in combat with the 10-kilometer range. The Raven helps expose possible terrorist threats by allowing Marines to survey the land before they travel it.
The small size also has its disadvantages.
“The worst thing is it’s only good for about an hour,” Cox said. “The endurance is the biggest deficiency of it.”
1st ANGLICO Marines spent two days in class before heading out to the field where each Marine launched, flew and operated the Raven and its support systems.
“It’s actually relatively easy to fly. Once you get it off the ground and in the air, it’s like any other radio-controlled plane,” Bruce said.
He added the hardest part is remembering all the steps to take to get the bird in the air.
For the training, the Marines operated in three-man teams. One Marine launched the plane like a football, the second Marine radio-controlled it, and the third monitored it on a computer.
Cox said although the Marines worked in three-man teams, typically you only need two men. If need be, the Raven can be operated by one individual given that individual is well trained.
Once the Marines finish training, they will be certified to conduct missions with the Raven.