FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Fifteen New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team tested their ability to fly the Army's smallest spy plane by conducting re-certification training with the RQ-11B Raven unmanned aircraft system during the brigade's annual training on July 21.
In the fields of Fort Drum's training ranges, Soldiers practiced assembling, launching, piloting and recovering the Raven. The small, hand-launched remote-controlled aircraft looks and flies like a model airplane a hobbyist would use.
The Raven is operated by Soldiers in several of the 27th Brigade's units.
"This is the first time I'm doing Raven training in New York," said Sgt. Foluke Marsh, a signal support systems specialist assigned to Alpha Battery of the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment. Marsh, a New York City resident, received his initial training to fly the Raven during a two-week course at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
"You learn the basic functionalities of the aircraft and all of its different parts," Marsh said. "You then learn how to launch the aircraft, set up the flight path, and how to manually fly it. It's an awesome course and everyone should take it."
Sgt. Jordan Aguiar, a cavalry scout assigned to Alpha Troop of the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment who led the training at Fort Drum, said the purpose was to give operators like Marsh the flight time needed to keep their certifications current.
The Raven, first adopted by the U.S. Army in 2005, is now used by more than 25 countries across the globe. Weighing in at just over four pounds, with a wingspan of 4.5 feet, and with a flying range of 10 kilometers, it is currently the smallest unmanned aircraft in wide use across the Army.
The Raven delivers real-time color or infrared pictures to the operator or a ground control station and uses a GPS system to navigate.
Aguiar said the Raven is more agile and less detectable than larger and more costly unmanned aircraft. Soldiers use it to conduct battlefield
reconnaissance and provide their units with a greater level of security.
"If you need to have eyes on a target, or eyes on a convoy to make sure everything is safe, it's good to send out the Raven instead of risking someone getting hurt or killed," Marsh said.
27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from around New York are at Fort Drum for their annual training from July 19 to August 3.