News: Shadow in the air
Story by Spc. Sinthia Rosario
WHITE SANDS, N.M. - Soldiers assigned to Company A, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Special Troops Battalion conducted testing of the Tactical Unmanned Aerial System at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., June 15 as part of the Network Integration Evaluation.
“The main role of the TUAS, also known as the ‘Shadow,’ is to provide overhead surveillance for units on the ground,” said Spc. Jason Leftridge a UAS maintainer with Company A, 2-1 STB.
“The new role that we’re testing out today is a communication relay so that multiple units can interface with command with out worrying about going from one radio station to the other to relay messages,” said Leftridge.
The Shadow can be used as the main relay from the unit to the command and vice versa. This cuts down on communication time and also prevents obstacles, such as buildings and mountains, from blocking radio signals and allows as close to real-time communication between troops on the ground and the Brigade possible.
Communication with the Shadow is maintained through the Grand Data Terminal. The GDT is a dish, which is pointed up in the air. This is how the ground control station communicates via the Shadow.
“Today went pretty good,” said Staff Sgt. Tony J. Deetz a UAS operator. “The bird was launched from a hydraulic rail launcher successfully.”
Not only was the Shadow being tested, but the Soldiers were too.
“We are qualifying our operators,” said Deetz. “Once they get out of Advanced Individual Training, they come to us and they’re pretty much fresh and don’t know how to operate the system, so we have to watch them.”
“The soldier’s are given a certain amount of tasks that need to be completed,” said Deetz. “They are being observed at all times. Once the tasks are completed, the soldiers will be signed off to fly birds by themselves.”
“Our job is to provide near-real time imagery and data to Brigade. This is gives the soldiers an advantage during wartime,” said Deetz.
“When soldiers go on a raid and the enemy is trying to slip out the back door, we can keep an eye on them and tell the troops on the ground where the enemy is,” said Deetz. “The enemy has no idea we’re watching them.”