A view from above: 3/6 Marines fly UAV


II Marine Expeditionary Force


CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, conducted their initial qualification testing and training with the RQ-11B Raven Unmanned Air Vehicle, Nov. 20.

The Raven course is a two-to-three week course that teaches Marines how to properly fly and operate the Raven. The course teaches the students the characteristics of the UAV, how to properly use the controller and how to fly the UAV in different profiles from night flights to covert operations.

“One of the most challenging things about the course was landing the UAV, especially while it was windy,” said LCpl. Juan Leon, a rifleman with the battalion and also a student in the Raven course.

Small and battery powered, the Raven weighs about 4.4 pounds. It has a day and nighttime camera and laser illuminator, which is used in coordination with night vision goggles, allowing Marines to see what is being illuminated without the enemies’ knowledge.

A UAV is typically carried by Marines who are moving around on foot, but can also be used with vehicle patrols and security, and is used as a forward reconnaissance asset. The Raven flies to a location and takes snapshots of the area, and sends the pictures back to a laptop computer for the Marine to analyze.

Using these pictures, a Marine is able to get grid coordinates and ranges for offensive and defense purposes. Since it’s powered by a hand controller, Marines can see what’s ahead without risking their safety, and it allows them to adjust tactics according to data sent back from the UAV. The UAV has a signal distance of about six miles for line of sight, but the UAV signal distance decreases with how many obstacles are in between the antenna and the UAV.

The biggest benefit that the Raven brings to the unit is safety, said Jimmy Barber, an instructor for the Raven course.

“We teach to a point where they can complete a full mission and fly [The UAV] in a real life situation,” Barber said. “Having the core knowledge [about the UAV], the Marines can start to apply what they’ve learned to their job.”