Warplanes: Raven Rules


August 10, 2006: The guerilla war between micro-UAV users and manned aviation continues, with no end in sight. The users of under-ten-pound UAVs don't see their little birds as "aircraft", but the aircraft community does. There are rules you have to comply with before operating aircraft, like filing flight plans and getting permission, from those who "manage" the air space, before you take off. But all these rules are at odds with the needs of ground troops. They are frequently involved in unscheduled life and death battles, and they need that UAV (with the U.S. Army, it's usually a Raven) in the air right away. No time for paperwork, or waiting for some air force puke to tell them it's OK.
While the aviators, especially the army helicopter pilots, can sympathize with the infantry's need for that eye-in-the-sky, they are nervous about sharing air space with Raven users, especially units known to be heavy UAV users. The Raven is a tiny bird and hard for helicopters pilots to spot. The Raven operators are also known for not paying attention to the presence of larger aircraft or helicopters, even though any collisions, or even near misses, are usually fatal for the Raven. There have not been a lot of collisions. Indeed, there may have been a few that were not even noticed by the helicopter or aircraft that ran into a Raven. At 4.2 pounds, the Raven would have to hit an aircraft or helicopter in just the right spot to do any real damage. Most such collisions apparently result in a dent in the larger aircraft, and pieces of Raven drifting earthward.
For the moment, it's a stand-off. The grunts have a point, and they are the guys in the most danger. They have a vested interest in keeping their Ravens away from larger aircraft, for even the back blast from propellers or helicopter rotor blades can send a Raven spinning out of control. To the grunts, the aircraft have more to fear from the small arms fire emanating from the ground, than from the Raven's circling the combat zone. The pilots continue to complain, but no one is willing to try taking the Ravens away from the infantry.




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