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1/23 scouts ahead using eye in the sky

17 Oct 2004 | Cpl. Randy Bernard

Knowledge of the enemy is key to getting the upper-hand in combat. Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, are employing aerial technology called the dragon eye to get a better picture on the situation. The dragon eye is a small, lightweight, fiberglass aircraft mounted with cameras. It is guided by a remote control, allowing for operators to observe dangerous city streets from the sky."We use the dragon eye to track enemy positions and locate civilians," said Cpl. Jimmy L. Parker, intelligence analyst with Company C. By having an eye in the sky, Marines can concentrate firepower on the enemy and minimize collateral damage by avoiding civilians.Remote controlled aircraft have evolved over the years, no longer requiring an operator to physically control the craft."You program a set of instructions for the dragon eye and program the route you want," said Lance Cpl. Enrique Linan, dragon eye operator for the company. "After you perform a few pre-flight checks, you launch it and it automatically flies the route."According to Linan, the aircraft is tracked using a global positioning system. The operator on the ground transmits signals to the dragon eye, guiding it along a pre-programmed route. The operator can also make changes to the aircraft's course during flight.The dragon eye is mounted with two separate cameras in the nose, one pointing down and another angled to the side of the aircraft. The aircraft can also be fitted with color, black and white and infrared cameras for night operations. The dragon eye flies with two small battery-powered propellers for distances of more than 40 kilometers at heights of more than 1,000 feet. "At 1,500 feet I can take a picture and give you a map that will show you all of the streets in the city," said Linan, 27, a native of Harlington, Texas.With conditions on the battlefield constantly changing, having up-to-date reconnaissance is vital to success."It's important to us because it allows us to plan for future ground operations using current imagery," said Parker, 23, from Columbus, Mo. "Satellite imagery taken a month ago is good, but pictures taken this morning are better."