QUANTICO, Va., 16 Feb. 2006. U.S. Marine Corps commanders are asking engineers at Aerovironment Inc. in Monrovia, Calif., to build them 303 Dragon Eye portable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which fit in a Marine's backpack and are designed to help fighting forces "see over the next hill."
The Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico Marine Base, Va., awarded Aerovironment a $9.8 million order Feb. 15 for the UAVs, as well as 101 ground control stations, 101 field support kits, and related support.
Dragon Eye provides commanders with real-time tactical and reconnaissance/surveillance information. A back-packable, bungee-launched, propeller-driven UAV, it has a wingspan of 3.75 feet and weighs 5.9 pounds. It provides aerial observation at line-of-sight ranges as far as three miles using GPS navigation to fly to and from operator-programmable waypoints.
The Dragon Eye, which is difficult to see and hear, can carry payloads capable of real-time, high-resolution color or infrared imagining. In addition to viewing imagery in real time, this UAV enables the operator to "click" capture and store still images on the mission-programming computer.
Dragon Eye is assembled and launched by a two man team in approximately 10 minutes though possibly less than five minutes, and comes complete with a portable control station. This UAV can reach speeds of 35 miles-per-hour, altitudes of 1,000 feet and distances of six miles.
The aircraft is programmed via a 7-pound ruggedized handheld computer which is capable of flight planning, flight monitoring, and storage of air vehicle transmitted video.
Work will be performed in Simi Valley, Calif., and will be finished by December. For more information contact Aerovironment online at www.avsuav.com.