Army assures skeptical Germans drones are for training, not spying


VILSECK, Germany — Rest assured, drone operator Sgt. Carson Wilson says, he’s not here to spy.

Next week, a Hunter MQ-5B will be soaring high in a newly established air corridor between the Army’s Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels training areas, marking the first time a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle will fly beyond military training grounds.

“When I first came to Germany, we didn’t have anywhere to fly,” said Wilson, a UAV operator assigned to the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade. “We’re here to let people know the camera is only to avoid obstacles, not to watch what people are doing.”

On Tuesday, the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command and the commander of the U.S. Bavaria Military Community hosted an open house at Vilseck’s Rose Barracks, where the Hunter UAV and a host of other smaller unmanned systems were on display. The event, which attracted a gaggle of local German media, was aimed at informing the public about the new UAV mission in the area and dispelling any safety and privacy concerns associated with the mission.

In July, German aviation authorities approved the use of UAVs for training in the greater Grafenwöhr area. While some flights have already begun on training ranges, the Army is now poised to launch flights between training sites. It’s a key milestone for the program, according to JMTC commander Brig. Gen. Walter Piatt.

“These [UAVs] are very important for how we operate around the world today,” Piatt said. “It helps us find the enemy before the enemy finds us.”