Warplanes: Raving About Raven

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January 7, 2011: The U.S. Army has ordered another 123 Raven UAV systems, as well as 339 digital upgrade kits for army Raven systems and 186 kits for U.S. Marine Corps Raven systems. These kits enable four times as many Ravens (up to 16) to operate in the same space (within range of other Raven controllers). The army already has thousands of RQ-11 Raven UAVs deployed, and has been quite pleased with their performance.

This two kilogram (4.4 pound) UAV is popular with combat and non-combat troops alike. The army has developed better training methods, which enables operators to get more out of Raven. Combat troops use it for finding and tracking the enemy, while non-combat troops use it for security (guarding bases or convoys). In both cases, troops have come to use the Raven for more than just getting a look over the hill or around the corner. The distinctive noise of Raven overhead is very unpopular with the enemy below, and often used to scare the enemy away, or make him move to where he can be spotted.

The current model, the Raven B (RQ-11A), was introduced four years ago, a year after the original Raven entered service in large numbers. This UAV is inexpensive ($35,000 each) and can stay in the air for 80 minutes at a time. The Raven is battery powered (and largely silent unless flown close to the ground). It carries a color day vidcam, or a two-color infrared night camera. It can also carry a laser designator. Both cameras broadcast real time video back to the operator, who controls the Raven via a handheld controller, which uses a hood to shield the display from direct sunlight (thus allowing the operator to clearly see what is down there). The Raven can go as fast as 90 kilometers an hour, but usually cruises at between 40 and 50, at altitudes of 100 meters (310 feet) or less. It can go as far as 15 kilometers from its controller, and usually flies a preprogrammed route, using GPS for navigation.

The Raven is made of Kevlar, the same material used in helmets and protective vests. On average, Raven can survive about 200 landings before it breaks something. While some Ravens have been shot down, the most common cause of loss is losing the communications link (as the aircraft flies out of range) or a software/hardware failure on the aircraft.

 

 


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