TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.
Senior Airman Joseph Bowlin of the Indiana National Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing knows all about communication and says that in military uses, communication equipment can help target enemy sites.
In a civilian response, for instance, a device about the size of a laptop computer can show live video from unmanned or manned aircraft.
"We also have radios, with the ability to communicate if power goes down and there are no cellphones or no phone lines," he said on Thursday during an invitation-only domestic operations expo hosted by the Indiana National Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing and Indiana State University at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.
Bowlin can use satellite radio or even HF tactical radio, which can allow long-range communication.
"We can be self-sufficient to talk between one city and another city. We can send information, emails, pictures and data links," Bowlin said.
Bowlin also has access to thermal-imaging devices that can help responders find people under rubble or in remote locations.
An image from unmanned systems could come from a plane such as an RQ-7B Shadow, an unmanned aircraft that is 12 feet long, with a 14-foot wingspan.
The plane can fly for six hours with a range of 70 to 75 miles and up to 127 miles per hour.
Spc. Tyson Pelo said next month he will undergo six months of specialized training to fly such an unmanned plane.
"It is purely reconnaissance. It is designed to support troops on the ground as it has two radios" as well a live video feed that can be relayed. It also has a laser than can guide weapons.
It is controlled with an aircraft operator and a second person who operates a camera. The plane normally flies between 7,000 and 9,000 feet of altitude, but can go as high as 15,000 feet, Pelo said.
The plane can be adapted for use to show an overview of a wildfire or an area impacted from a natural disaster. "It is another tool that can be used" to provide information that can help first responders, Pelo said.
Col. L. Kip Clark, group commander of the 181st Intelligence Group, part of the 181st Intelligence Wing, said the Terre Haute facility has an intelligence group, mission support group and a medical group. The 81st Troop Command and the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency are also housed at the Terre Haute airport.
"We do contribute to the community, state and nation. Annually we have an economic impact" of more than $50.4 million in payroll and jobs, Clark said.
The wing has personnel from 62 of 92 Indiana counties and from 18 states.
"I think that is very telling about the contribution of community, state and nation," Clark said.
"We are very cost-effective because nearly 75 percent of our folks are drill-status guardsmen. These are folks who work out in our community in a variety of occupational fields and then when needed for a federal or state mission, can be activated, whether for a fight in Afghanistan or something in our home community," Clark said.