SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia -- Soaring over the battleground at 10,000 feet, the unmanned drone uses its six cameras to create a perfect picture of the area. The Marines, almost two miles below, hold the advantage of gathering real-time intelligence from a safe and secluded location.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted aerial reconnaissance with a Raven B unmanned aerial vehicle, as a part of Talisman Saber 2013 here, July 23 through 30.
The small, quiet and unassuming Raven provided a real-time battle space picture to the BLT commanding officer throughout the exercise, allowing him the ability to maneuver his troops based on the latest intelligence.
“We used the Raven primarily during the security and stability operation phase to provide indications and warning to BLT Marines in ambush positions,” said Capt. George A. Hierro, the intelligence officer with BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Orlando, Fla. “The Raven is a responsive organic airborne intelligence asset that provides the ability to confirm or deny the presence of enemy forces and determine the pattern of life in an urban area.”
The Raven has three electro-optical cameras and three infrared cameras that can provide a detailed view of the battle space from miles away. The cameras are located throughout the unmanned aerial vehicle to provide a 180-degree sight to the pilot. Two specialized cameras in the front and two more on both sides of the wings give the UAV the capability of operating both day and night.
“Applying the capabilities of the Raven is an easy way for us to put an eye in the sky and watch what is around the troops,” said Cpl. Jorge L. Rodriquez, the Raven team leader and a native of Skokie, Ill. “This is something that changes the planning and coordination of the operations by giving a clearer picture of what is in store for the forward elements.”
The Marines operating the drone go through a school that qualifies them to use the Raven B platform. The UAV team consists of three Marines: an operator, a flight path coordinator and a thrower. Because of the UAV’s small size, it requires assistance to take flight. Once thrown into the air, the motor of the Raven can propel the craft for the remainder of the flight.
“It is a really exciting thing to be able to support a MEU with something that you can throw into action from a location as small as a patrol base or a forward operating base,” said Lance Cpl. William S. Parker, a Raven mission operator with BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Melbourne, Fla. “I get word from the operations section telling me where they need the Raven and apply it to get eyes on the battlefield.”
The Marines with the Raven team provided near-continuous intelligence surveillance throughout the Shoalwater Bay Training Area for the 31st MEU during Talisman Saber 13.
The 31st MEU simulated offensive and defensive operations against an opposing force comprised of Australian Army soldiers and Marines from the rotational force-Darwin, providing the team valuable experience in a realistic combat environment. When the dust settled and all of the video feed was analyzed, the Raven team was credited with a job well done.
“The Raven team exceeded my training objectives during Talisman Saber 13 and proved highly proficient in the Raven’s employment,” said Hierro.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward deployed MEU.