BAGHDAD (Army News Service, July 13, 2010) -- Short and squat in stature, with spindly legs sticking out underneath and a loud, whiny engine like a leaf-blower on steroids, the gasoline-powered Micro Air Vehicle, or gMAV, won't be winning beauty contests anytime soon.

But this ugly duckling of the unmanned aerial systems world is in fact a valuable tool, especially when conducting route clearance missions in search of improvised explosive devices, such as with the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, now in Iraq.

"When we first saw it, we thought it was a flying George Foreman [grill]," said Spc. Josh Judson, who said he's also heard the UAS described as a trashcan, a barbecue grill, and even a beer keg.

A combat engineer-turned-gMAV operator, Judson and fellow Soldiers from 38th Engineer Company, recently gave a demonstration of the device's capabilities to members of the 4-2 Stryker BCT command group.

"You don't really know what it does until you see it fly," he said.

The gMAV, weighing in at roughly 18 pounds, is a Class I system. While in the air, it is capable of stopping to hover using its cameras to capture video and still images of the ground below.

"It gives us situational awareness from the air," said Judson, explaining that it can be used in both night and day route clearance missions. "It gives us an idea of what's going on ahead of us, what's behind us, and any [IED] emplacers that might be coming along our way."

Though some are turned off to the gMAV by the very un-stealthy droning sound its engine makes, Judson said when on a very noticeable and high-profile mission like route clearance, the aircraft's noise is actually helpful.

"The truth is, we come in white-light, bright and loud," he said. "So why not add a little bit more deterrent to it'"

He and other members of 38th Engineer Company, were taught how to operate the gMAV during a nine-day course taught at Camp Taji.

Although it's not exactly what he signed up to do as a combat engineer, Judson said that he enjoys flying the gMAV.

"I like the fact that I can give the ground command something in the convoy -- it's my piece," he said. "It's all of our pieces, those that fly the gMAV. It's what we do."

(Sgt. Bryce S. Dubee writes for the 4th SBCT PAO, 2nd Inf. Div., USD-C)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16