HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - In a previous Redstone Report, we featured one of the Army's first Unmanned Aircraft Systems operators. You can find that story right here. While the original operators paved the way, current operators are busy keeping the path steady.
From the Gray Eagle down to the Raven, the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems come in all shapes and sizes. Staff Sgt. Jason Brinton described his job as, "Broad aspect of it? We provide support to the guys on the ground, identifying threats for them, just making their lives easier."
Staff Sgt. Brinton operates the Gray Eagle, Shadow and the Raven. Each aircraft is a little different. Staff Sgt. Brinton said, "The small ones fly more like a RC plane, you actually use a joystick to fly it around. The larger ones, they're actually controlled through these GCS's and it's more point and click."
Training to become a UAS operator typically begins at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Staff Sgt. Brinton described it as, "We start off at ground school. We do map reading, identifying targets. We also go through FAA ground school, the same school that actual pilots go to, and then from there we transition into what ever platform we're being qualified on."
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hayes has been a UAS operator for four years. He operates one of the smaller aircraft, called Raven. Because it's smaller, it can be launched straight into the air by hand. Sgt. 1st Class Hayes said, "These aircraft, you can fly as a user on the ground, so whenever we need to get a picture of something, video of something over a hill that we can't see, me? I can launch this and get some video right away."
Allowing soldiers to get their hands on that video right away could alert them to danger in the distance and ultimately save lives. Sgt. 1st Class Hayes said, "I mean, I think that's the main point about these aircraft. You can fly the aircraft, get the pictures and video, and this is going to potentially save somebody's life because you can get an idea of what's happening before you send people in there."