UAS & Robotics

Army units' new Raven cameras see better than a hawk

Raven UAS 360 degree Gimbal camera

The Raven’s new front-mounted camera provides a nearly 360-degree view for day or might operations.


Some Army units’ eye in the sky just got a lot better vision. During an initiative at Fort Hood, Texas, selected units received new cameras for their Raven R-11B unmanned aerial systems that provide 360-degree views and are capable of operating in any light.

The new payload upgrade, called Raven Gimbal, replaces the previous fixed front and side cameras that required operators to position the aircraft to see in different directions, according to an Army release. The Gimbal’s front-mounted camera allows soldiers to rotate the camera in seconds. The camera also incorporates infrared capabilities with daylight capabilities, so cameras don’t have to be switched out.

The Raven, made by AeroVironment, is a small UAS deployed by several branches of the military, including the Army, Marines, Air Force and Special Operations Command. The hand-launched aircraft has a wingspan of four and a half feet, weighs 4.2 pounds and can fly for 60 to 90 minutes with a ceiling of 100 to 500 feet. 

Of its many functions for the various service branches that utilize this versatile UAS, it provides reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and force protection for both day and night operations.

The Raven can transmit live airborne video images as well as compass headings and location information to ground control stations, laptops and remote video terminals for increased situational awareness. Such forward operating capabilities enable soldiers to better navigate, search for targets, recognize terrain and record information for analysis. 

“This upgrade will make the whole reconnaissance world more effective,” said Sgt. Shane Burroughs. “It will provide better capabilities to units as a whole.”

“We are getting better surveillance now when we launch the Raven,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Mann, an infantryman and master small UAS trainer with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team. “We no longer have to bring the Raven down to switch from daytime to nighttime infrared cameras, as it has both capabilities. We can run twilight missions all at one time, and switch between white hot, black hot and colored cameras all in one setting.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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