April 2, 2009 AeroVironment's Raven UAV system has been used to demonstrate the viability of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as a low-cost surveillance alternative in a continuous 30-hour persistent surveillance test flight. Conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Army Product Manager for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS), the demonstration involved unbroken surveillance of a target site using one standard production Raven RQ-11B baseline system (three aircraft and two ground control stations) operated by two-person crews working in eight-hour shifts.
The hand-launchable UAV's autonomous guidance capability was used in the demonstration in which 27 sorties were flown with no system failures or mission aborts (the Raven runs on Lithoum-Ion batteries with a 90 minute battery lifespan). Information gathering included a live video feed from the operation.
According to Dean Barten, product director for Army SUAS, “This demonstration indicates that the Raven small UAS is capable of performing tasks normally assigned to limited, high demand, and higher echelon reconnaissance assets in a highly cost-effective manner. The Raven small UAS was employed and performed as it does everyday in combat operations - reliably, without fanfare, in support of the soldiers in the fight.” Because the 4.2-pound Raven fits in a rucksack, the system has some obvious operational advantages, and its usefulness as a continuous surveillance tool could extend well beyond the military into areas like border control, law enforcement and communications.