FORT HOOD, Texas – Silently circling high above the ground, the RQ-11 Raven’s (an unmanned aerial vehicle) camera focused in on its target. The operator, Sgt. Jason Lundquist, controlled the Raven’s actions from a ground station. He zoomed in on his target, taking multiple pictures as his aircraft made another pass. He was on a reconnaissance mission and these photos may save someone’s life in the future. <br /> <br /> “Go ahead and bring it in for landing,” said Staff Sgt. Luther Oldfield, a master Raven trainer with Headquarter and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team.<br /> <br /> Lundquist, a team leader for 64th Military Police Company, 720th MP Battalion, entered the landing commands into his controller; the Raven reoriented itself and began its descent. It slowly glided in and hit the ground, breaking apart into nine pieces on impact, a unique characteristic of its landing procedure. This was day one of the hands-on portion of the Raven certification course. <br /> <br /> The course is a total of two weeks, said Pfc. Cole Clark, an MP with 64th MP Company. The students started at a beginners level. The first week covered basic avionics of the Raven system and emergency procedures.<br /> <br /> “What I am teaching is ground avionics, which is flying an aircraft from a ground station,” said Oldfield. “The antennas of the system have a range of up to 10 kilometers.”<br /> <br /> Flying the Raven is not difficult, however, there is still basic aviation information an operator must know to fly, such as bearing, heading, and wind speed. <br /> <br /> For landing, the Raven has to face into the wind and it is programmed to guide itself in a coast all the way toward the ground. Landing is unique because there are built-in break points that are designed to break apart on impact, which to the unfamiliar eye looks a lot like a catastrophic crash. However, the Raven is very tough and undamaged.<br /> <br /> The Ravens can be mount-operated. Units can have the control station mounted in a vehicle, launch the Raven and have it flying over the top of the unit while they do their patrol. <br /> <br /> “Its primary function is reconnaissance, but you can use it for target acquisition or battle site damage assessment,” said Oldfield, a native of Albuquerque, N.M. “The MPs can fly the Raven over the roads of a city to see if there are any ambushes and check rooftops for snipers. With the Raven, operators can sight their targets, call for fire and verify the target was destroyed.”<br /> <br /> “Anytime you can send a piece of equipment into an area so a soldier doesn’t have to put his life on the line is always a plus,” said Oldfield. “The Ravens are quiet, so the enemy won’t know it’s there, especially at night.” <br /> <br /> It is a fascinating piece of equipment and there are going to be some good job opportunities in the future here in the U.S. and across the world, said Clark a Whitewright, Texas, native. This training is a great opportunity for everyone.<br /> <br /> “In the year 2015, FAA is going to open up the national air space for unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Oldfield. “So not only am I training these guys to fly for the Army, but they can actually take the certification to the civilian sector as well. This is going to be a good field in 2015.”<br /> <br /> Police departments and border patrol are going to want to use UAVs, said Lundquist, a Lakeville, Minn., native. It’s going to be a whole new industry and a lot of the experienced pilots are going to initially come from the military. <br /> <br /> “I volunteered to do this,” said Lundquist. “I thought it would be a great new experience; I always like trying new things that the Army has to offer. It is just great to be part of a team that helps those downrange stay safe.”<br /> <br /> As another team launched a Raven into the air, one thing was certain: the MPs will continue to secure the safety of their fellow soldiers who are deployed.