FORT STEWART, Ga. - A six-man team has been dropped into enemy territory to monitor movement along a highway to provide space and time to their supported unit to react to the identified enemy activity. The team can now reduce risk by launching a Raven, which is a hand-held unmanned aerial vehicle to provide the real-time intelligence they need without increased exposure to danger.

The RQ-11 Raven is a lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle designed for low-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It can provide aerial observation under day or night conditions through the electro optical or infrared cameras mounted on board the vehicle. The Raven is relatively easy to fly and can be operated manually or can fly a programmed route autonomously using GPS waypoint navigation.

Georgia Guardsmen with 3-108th Cavalry Squadron, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, and the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted RQ-11 Raven training at Fort Stewart, Ga., in mid-April to better prepare these Soldiers and their units to conduct reconnaissance missions with the lightweight, unmanned aerial vehicle.

"Ravens allow tactical commanders at the company level and below the ability to see five to ten kilometers away without exposing their troops to any danger," said Maj. Adam Smith, pre-mobilization training and assistance element officer in charge. "The Raven fits in a back pack, so you can easily use it in either a tactical environment or here in the states to provide local authorities with a bird's eye view of storm damage if requested and approved by appropriate authorities."

Georgia Army National Guard Raven systems are maintained by the PTAE at Fort Stewart, which provides large training areas that are pre-approved through the Federal Aviation Administration for UAV operations. These training areas also provide us a safe place to train operators without affecting the local civilian population.

"Our troops have simulator requirements and have to launch and recover the Raven every 150 days to stay current," said Smith. "Bottom-line, we have to keep using the Raven because the skill set is perishable."

The Raven is controlled by two operators: the vehicle operator and the mission operator. The VO operates the camera and can fly the aircraft into a position to better utilize the on-board camera. The MO follows the aircraft on a moving map ensuring the VO is gathering intelligence on the right objective.

"The Raven has five different flight modes: the manual mode, altitude mode, navigation mode, loiter mode, and home mode," said Staff Sgt. Mathew Hersey, PTAE Raven trainer. "It is pretty cool that even if we lose link with the vehicle for six seconds it can be programmed to automatically return to its launch site at a pre-determined altitude."

"There are many ways to use the Raven. It is an amazing capability that gives units the ability to detect hostile forces 10 to 30 minutes away as opposed to 10 to 30 seconds away," said Smith. "The Raven can save lives, and give a unit the capability to accurately identify and target an objective while reducing their risk."