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U.S. Army’s Raven Hand-Launched Drone Fleet Getting Millions Worth of Upgrades

The skies over the world’s various battlefields are filled with drones these days. Most of them are pretentious machines that go up in the air just like crewed airplanes do, and carry enough weaponry to wage a small war on their own. But not the AeroVironment Raven.
AeroVironment Raven 6 photos
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Introduced in 2003, this thing looks more like a model airplane. In fact, it kind of even operates as one, as it takes to the sky only after a soldier manually throws it into the air. That may seem extremely low-tech, all things considered, but the U.S. Army uses the Raven in large numbers.

Raven’s primary mission is to gather intelligence from low-altitudes. It is so good at its job that, with close to 20,000 of them made and deployed by over 50 countries, it is without a doubt the “most widely deployed unmanned aircraft system in the world.”

The drone has a range of 10 km (6.2 miles), and it can fly for up to 90 minutes on a single outing. It is equipped with a series of surveillance-oriented hardware, including infrared cameras. If need be, it can fly and land on its own after its mission has been accomplished.

Last week, drone maker AeroVironment announced the capabilities of the American drone fleet would increase as a result of a $21 million contract awarded by the U.S. Army. The changes mostly target improvements of the Raven’s avionics and data link, with one of the goals being the modification of the radio frequencies the Army uses to operate them.

“The U.S. Army possesses the largest fleet of Raven small unmanned aircraft systems in the world. For more than a decade, Raven systems have provided frontline Soldiers with increased mission effectiveness, safety and situational awareness so they can proceed with certainty,” said Trace Stevenson, vice president and product line general manager of small UAS.

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