UAS platoon certifies on Shadow, learns upgrades

FORT HOOD, Texas – Approximately 28 soldiers with Company A., 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted unmanned aircraft system training here, Jan. 21 to Feb. 1.

Company A’s UAS platoon underwent their annual delta training – training where UAS operators and maintainers receive a full in-depth, hands-on instruction on the Shadow to maintain system proficiency and training on new UAS upgrades, said Sgt. Jonathan Olson, Company A senior UAS operator from Sparta, Wis.

The training consisted of one-week classroom instruction and a one-week field exercise under the guidance of contractors with AAI Corporation, Olson said.

The Shadow 200 is a tactical UAS used for surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition and when upgraded, its wingspan and flight time increases significantly, Michael Hammett, an AAI maintenance instructor, explained.

“Shadows are beneficial to soldiers because its main functions are surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition,” Hammett said. “The UAS platoon currently has the 14ft. wingspan model, but the increased endurance model boasts a 19-foot wingspan.”

Other upgrades include larger fuel capacity, a new recovery chute and a radio communications system.

“The communications relay package or CRP is fitted onto the Shadow for increased communications between higher and lower echelons, which also helps improve ground-to-air communications,” Hammett added.

It was CRP the instructors focused on most during the two-week training, Olson said. It’s the benefits of increased communication on the battlefield that makes it an important focus for this training.

“Ground units and headquarters can be greater distance apart and lacking good line of sight, but utilizing the UAS CRP, signal strength can be relayed over an expanded battle space,” Olson added.

With upgrades and improvements continuous maintenance is needed.

“We must ensure the Shadow is clean. Also, routinely checked for proper functionality before and after each flight, such as the internal heaters during colder weather,” Spc. Charles Baggett, a UAS maintainer, said.

“The CRP requires additional maintenance but nothing difficult, definitely nothing UAS maintainers can’t handle efficiently,” Baggett, from Melbourne, Fla., said.

Maintainers were also given new scenarios to work out throughout the training.

“I found the training very effective,” said Sgt. Andrew Nakamura, a UAS maintainer and Newport, N.C. native. “The scenarios played a role in having less experienced maintainers gain knowledge and as refresher for the more experienced.”

Overall maintenance for the training went well and as did the multiple flights that took place in the final week, Hammett stated.

“We stepped aside, gave them leeway and control of the operations in the last few days, and saw confidence as the UAS platoon trained at peak performance,” he added.

The UAS platoon is scheduled to train again next month.