Little things mean a lot. The U.S.
Army, seeking to improve communications ranges in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a
20 pound communications relay device built for use on its Shadow 200 UAVs. This
enables FM radios, used by ground troops, to increase their range (several
times) to over 150 kilometers. More importantly, obstacles like mountains and
tall buildings would less frequently interfere. That's because the Shadow 200s
fly at 10,000 feet, or higher, to avoid ground fire. Weighing 350 pounds, these
aircraft only have a payload of 56 pounds. The army often has a Shadow 200
flying the same pattern for up to six hours at a time (looking for the teams
that place roadside bombs, or simply keeping an eye on an area U.S. troops are
operating in, or will be shortly). The communications relay capability has
become so popular that sometimes Shadow 200s are sent up mainly for that, with
recon a secondary duty.
communications relay system took less than a year to develop and get to the
troops. The first one went into action a year ago.