Monrovia CA: The U.S. Army Product Manager for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) and AeroVironment, Inc. (AV) recently conducted a continuous 30-hour demonstration of persistent surveillance of a point target using AV’s RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aircraft system.
The demonstration at Camp Roberts, Calif. followed an inquiry from Pentagon officials regarding the potential for AV’s Raven small UAS to perform low-cost, tactically relevant persistent surveillance.
The continuous 30-hour duration represents a prolonged tactical level surveillance mission similar to what would typically be performed at the battalion or lower level. Using one standard production Raven baseline system, which consists of three aircraft and two ground control stations, the demonstration provided continuous surveillance using only two-person crews operating in eight-hour shifts.
Employing the autonomous guidance capability incorporated into the Raven small UAS, operators rotated the aircraft over a surveyed point target, a residential building on the base, maintaining unbroken surveillance throughout the demonstration, and reported activity at the target site.
In addition to recording the imagery, the demonstration team streamed a live video feed from the operation via webcast throughout the event.
According to Dean Barten, product director for Army SUAS, “This demonstration indicates that the Raven small UAS is capable of performing tasks normally assigned to limited, high demand, and higher echelon reconnaissance assets in a highly cost-effective manner.
The Raven small UAS was employed and performed as it does everyday in combat operations – reliably, without fanfare, in support of the soldiers in the fight.”
Barten said that in a testament to the Raven system’s reliability, over the course of the 30-hour demonstration, 27 sorties were flown with no system failures or mission aborts. The system operated flawlessly, despite the presence of high winds, air turbulence and rain, all while operating out of an unimproved area.
“Soldiers have in their rucksacks an immediately accessible, long-term surveillance unmanned aircraft system to give them extended bird’s eye views of a target so they don’t have to wait for larger unmanned aircraft systems that are in high demand,” said John Grabowsky, executive vice president and general manager of AV’s UAS segment.
“The battle-proven Raven system could also support many important non-military applications for extended intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, such as border control, law enforcement, and communications and reconnaissance following a major storm.”
In order to maintain continuous surveillance, the Raven system operators rotated the aircraft over the target: one aircraft operating on an alternate control channel would relieve the orbiting aircraft prior to the latter’s rotation back to the launch/ recovery site.
The Raven system’s daytime color electro-optical camera and nighttime infrared camera payloads were employed to ensure continuous situational awareness. The Raven system’s operations were conducted in varying weather conditions, including rain and temperatures ranging from low 70’s to mid 40’s (Fahrenheit).
The Raven systems used by the Army include three air vehicles, day and night sensors, two ground control stations, a laptop computer with mission planning and recording software and accompanying spares and a battery charger. The 4.2-pound Raven aircraft is powered by lithium-ion batteries.
In addition to its Raven system, AV’s small UAS product family includes Puma AE and Wasp, which are also hand-launched and controlled by AV’s hand-held ground control station. Each aircraft in AV’s family of small UAS is interoperable and tailored to address a variety of operational user needs.
AV’s UAS logistics operation supports systems deployed worldwide to ensure a consistently high level of operational readiness. AV has delivered thousands of small unmanned aircraft to date. International purchasers of Raven systems include Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain.