‘Unmanned’ aircraft focus of foundation gala

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By Drew C. Wilson, Havelock News

Capt. Guy R. Nelson would like people to remember that man is very much still at the help of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Nelson is an unmanned aviation commander instructor with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 at Cherry Point.

“What I get passionate about is the unmanned piece,” Nelson said of how many describe what has been called drone aircraft. “It’s not unmanned. It’s not even remotely unmanned. It’s just that the man is not in the airplane. Once you can wrap your head around that, that the man is still very much in the loop and the airplane is only going to do what you tell it to do, so how much the man plans and executes is vital to the success of the airplane and the mission.”

Unmanned aerial systems will be the topic of this year’s Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation gala on Friday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center. The event starts at 5:30 and is the foundation’s premier event of the year.

“It is really important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a UAV and we are trying to integrate that in with the manned assets in the air and the ground units to best put our strengths to support the Marine on the ground,” Nelson said. “We’re not trying to take over the aerial realm. That’s not where we’re at. That’s not where we’re going.”

Currently, VMU-2 has about 300 members in the squadron including mechanics, operators and a larger than usual intelligence unit. The squadron operates two types of planes, the RQ-7 Shadow and the MQ-21 Blackjack, which are in the group 3 classification of unmanned aerial systems. Class 1 crafts are small, hand launched vehicles. Class 5 describes large missile-carrying aircraft like the Reaper, Predator or Global Hawk.

The squadron’s main missions include aerial reconnaissance, analyzing and synthesizing information, terminal guidance and corrections for artillery rounds.