January 8, 2009: The U.S. Army is installing a lightweight laser designator for its RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAV. This enables the UAV to designate targets for laser guided smart bombs. This is useful for when you need more accuracy than GPS guided weapons (which hit within a 30 foot circle, while laser guidance is good for 5-6 feet.) But even with just the GPS and laser range finder, the Shadow can spot for the large number of GPS guided munitions. These include the hundred pound 155mm Excalibur (with 20 pounds of explosives), the 600 pound MLRS rocket (with 150 pounds of explosives) or the 1.5 ton ATACMS rocket (with 500 pounds of explosives.) This has proved enormously useful, because the Shadow can stay in the air long enough to catch the enemy doing something, and allowing an army shell or rocket to be quickly brought into play to deal with the situation.
Each 350 pound Shadow 200 UAV costs $500,000, and can stay in the air 5.5 hours per sortie. A day camera and night vision camera is carried on each aircraft. Able to fly as high as 15,000 feet (or more), the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (over 10,000 feet) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire. The Shadow UAVs can carry 56 pounds of equipment., is eleven feet long and has a wingspan of 12.75 feet. The Shadow has a range of about 50 kilometers.