Kadena airmen fine-tune skills in operating Raven flying cameras
November 15, 2004
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — When it’s too dangerous for humans to fly over terrain on reconnaissance missions, a team of airmen from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron are using ravens to do the job.
Mechanical “Ravens,” to be exact. The $40,000, four-pound flying cameras, with wing spans of 36 inches, were recently put through their paces at a tactical and live-bombing range in Lop Buri, Thailand.
They passed with flying colors, according to the airmen who honed their skills flying the remote-controlled “eyes in the sky” last week.
According to a 353rd Special Operations Group news release, which did not identify the operators by name, each Raven has a camera mounted in its nose, and the live feed provides the operators with battlefield intelligence and can give ground force commanders up-to-the-second data for several miles.
They also can be flown in the dark, using the camera’s night-vision capability.
“The utility for a Special Tactics Team is tremendous,” said one operator.
The Ravens extend the ground controllers’ vision over ridgelines, giving them the ability to find the enemy without exposing their own position.
The Ravens also are used for search and rescue operations in hostile environments, like steep mountains and cliffs.
And their ability to do remote battlefield assessments make them useful tools in battling terrorism, according to the news release.
The battery-operated mechanical birds are designed to collapse upon impact so the camera is protected from the blow, according to the news release.
Each operator goes through a week’s training in Yuma, Ariz., getting hands-on experience that includes putting the birds together and performing flight operations, landings and maintenance.