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Marines retrieve the RQ-11B Raven (small unmanned surveillance systems) after a landing aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 8-19. Infantry and intelligence Marines with 1st Marine Division witnessed the capabilities of the aircraft firsthand during a two-week introduction course to the SUASS which is used to pervade timely reliable information. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Ashton C. Buckingham)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham

Division Marines become Eyes in the Skies

26 Sep 2014 | Lance Cpl. Ashton Buckingham

It weighs less than five pounds, is only three feet long and captures hundreds of detailed images and video while flying at a steady 26 knots 1,500 feet above the earth.   
 
The RQ-11B Raven proves that size isn’t everything. These small unmanned surveillance systems, better known as SUASS, provide timely and reliable information to military leaders at all levels.
 
Infantry and intelligence Marines with 1st Marine Division experienced the capabilities of the aircraft firsthand during a two-week introduction course for the SUASS aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Sept. 8-19.

Marines became experts on the emergency, flight and maintenance procedures of the aircraft during the course.

After being tested on necessary procedures, Marines spent the day on a computer simulator practicing, assembling and performing all proper procedures and conducting realistic flight simulations with the aircraft.
 
“The goal of the course is for an individual to walk out qualified to operate that certain class of UASS,” said Maj. Gary Shill, the group one integrated UASS project lead. “Marines leave reassured that they can return for further training and with any questions about the SUASS.”

Marines spent the majority of their course time outside conducting practical application exercises with the aircraft. They were required to perform maneuvers such as covert approaches on targets, low-altitude landings, target profiling, tracking moving targets and night operations, all while ensuring that they obeyed Federal Aviation Administration laws.
  
“The Raven supplies on-demand, real-time intelligence for small unit commanders and allows them to deploy and provide aerial surveillance without having to request it from a higher command. This allows the leaders to make immediate decisions and helps determine the best way to maneuver in a variety of scenarios,” Shill said.

One of the students agreed the system is a welcome addition to the Marine Corps surveillance fleet.

“The best part of this training is not only learning how to fly the Raven, but seeing how valuable it is,” said Cpl. Mathew Stitch, an intelligence specialist with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

Stitch said the SUASS allows him to provide the commander with an abundance of images and real-time information. The system is able to track both friendly and enemy movements on a video feed instead of looking at a static map, allowing commanders to make instant battlefield assessments and up-to-date decisions.

The small unmanned aerial surveillance system courses ensure Marines have the proper training to provide military leaders with timely and accurate information conducted conveniently, quickly and safely.