AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR --
Small, hand-held, unmanned, light weight and remotely operated drones describe one of the ways technology is used to ensure the safety of deployed personnel.
The 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron secures the base perimeter with help from the Raven B Digital Data Link drone at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
"The Raven B can be flown remotely with user input and is used to gather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Pfeiffer, 379th ESFS noncommissioned officer in charge of the Raven B program.
“The Raven B is used to research the area 100 meters out from the base to look for people who may use shoulder fire rockets or anything that would engage an aircraft; it’s also used to conduct battle damage assessments and does reconnaissance for patrols going on a convoy mission,” said Pfeiffer.
The Raven B system is employed in other locations within the area of responsibility, to include Afghanistan and Iraq. It can fly day or night for 60-90 minutes depending on weather conditions. The camera attached to the Raven B takes still images and streams live video.
“We fly in seven sectors around the base, looking outside the perimeter and watching key areas of interest,” said Pfeiffer. “We help secure the base security zone and provide visual assessments of any suspicious activity around the base perimeter.”
There are six Raven B systems on base and four two-man teams who fly the Raven B aircraft. Senior Airman James McGaha and Airmen 1st Class Chris Dial, 379th ESFS Raven B operators, make up one of the four Raven B teams at AUAB.
“Flying around the perimeter provides situational awareness about what is happening on base in areas where patrols can’t get to them quickly or at all,” said Senior Airman James McGaha, 379th ESFS Raven B operator. “We mitigate the response time and keep eyes on the situation.”
Operating the system does not come without its challenges.
The Raven B team is not able to fly off base, and at times, there are others in the same air space when they are flying their missions, Pfeiffer added.
“The wind and the heat can be a challenge,” said Airmen 1st Class Chris Dial, 379th ESFS Raven B operator. “Once it gets hot, the heat can loosen the glue and the aircraft will fall apart, other times the wind will pick up and we can’t fly the plane.”
Raven B training is conducted at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field, outside Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, over two weeks. Becoming a Raven B operator is an additional duty for Security Forces patrolmen, but they are enjoying the task.
“I was excited when I found out I was involved with the Raven B program,” said McGaha. “I knew there were going to be some challenges, but there is potential in doing mobile missions outside of the wire and you can see a lot of interesting things.”