Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Bigger and Better" Drones Coming to Kentucky Skies?

 According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Kentucky has four locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
Fort Campbell MQ1C RQ-11B, RQ-7B Puma, Viking
Corbin RQ-11B Wasp, Puma
Lexington RQ-11B Wasp, Puma
Fort Knox RQ-11B, RQ-7B

Fort Campbell has a $68 million hangar construction project for FY 2012 for basing the MQ-IC Gray Eagle (DOD report, p. 15). The Gray Eagle is an an Extended-Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) drone, an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator.

The report further discloses that the RQ-7B Shadow is operated from Fort Knox, under the status "Locations Requiring COAs [Certificate of Waiver or Authorization]". ("Locations where the Army currently conducts operations outside of Restricted Areas that require a COA from the FAA. In the majority of these locations, the purpose of the COA is to transition from the launch site to adjacent Restricted Areas. Additionally, the Raven can be operated using DoD-FAA agreed-to Class G airspace notification procedures for flights flown over Government-owned or -leased land." (DOD report, p. 20))

The background image for this blog is the picture shown at left, in which a member of the 101st Airborne Division (AD), Fort Campbell, Kentucky (KY), "prepar[es] to launch a Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Forward Operations Base (FOB) McHenry, Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Soldiers will fly the Raven over Route Trans-Am to scan for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)" (from the Department of Defense's "Armed with Science" website).

When will we see soldiers launching drones in Kentucky?