Infantry: July 5, 2001

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The infantry get closer and closer to having their own air force (for reconnaissance.) During the 1980s, the US Marines got the Exdrone (for expendable drone). It was a hundred pound UAV that could stay in the air for about two hours. It carried a TV camera for sending back information. Nice, and it was used successfully in the Gulf War. But it is still kind of large (an eight foot wingspan) and requires a special launch vehicle and is liable to damage when landing. The marines are currently testing their next generation infantry UAV; the Dragon Eye. This UAV weighs only 4.5 pounds and is launched by two men with an oversize slingshot. Battery powered, the Dragon Eye can stay in the air 40-50 minutes. It is rarely damaged when landing. With a wing span of 45 inches, it is broken down for transport and takes two marines about ten minutes to snap together and ready it for flight. The entire system can be carried in a back pack. It sends back color photos that can be seen on a lap top screen or using an eyeglass type viewer. Because of it's small size, it can't deal with high winds (over 50 kilometers an hour.) Each Dragon Eye system costs about $5,000. The marines are distributing 40 systems to combat units this year for more testing. So far, the marine platoon and company commanders who have used it like it. It's faster than using troops as scouts, and you don't risk your scouts getting killed. From the ground, it looks like a hawk gliding through the air. 

 


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