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Soldiers, Marines work with FSR to improve mobility of UAV system

December 9, 2011

By Ms J. Elise Vanpool (AMC)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 8, 2011) -- "The best tool in the world won't work if you don't have the room to take it," said Todd Patterson, an unmanned aerial vehicle field service representative who helps field the T-Hawk UAV at Camp Leatherneck.

Units going out on patrol often face severe space limitation inside their vehicles. After communications equipment and the Soldiers themselves there is not much room for the additional tools that give them the edge of the battlefield.

"You look at an MRAP [mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle] and think, 'I could play football in there,'" said Patterson. The reality is often the opposite, which left units wanting to bring the T-Hawk on patrol in a bit of a bind.

Specialist William Morgan, of the 571st Engineer Company wrote to Patterson asking, "I was wondering if there was a smaller box for the t-hawks. We would love to take them out more, but we have a huge problem with space available. Is there a way we could get together and maybe make a smaller box to fit in our trucks?"

The T-Hawk UAV system is a small aerial surveillance system that allows units to get eyes on an area, giving much needed, real-time intelligence on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the tough box that comes with the system was often too big to fit in a unit's vehicle.

Seeking a solution to the problem, Patterson and Morgan designed a carrying system that allowed the UAV to be operated out of a smaller box, with one outlet and without additional assembly.

Starting with a pelican case and some metal racks taken from broken air conditioning units found in the DLA Disposition Services yard, the two fashioned a new carrying case for the unit. The end product was small enough to easily fit in an MRAP, allowed the operator to run the systems without reassembling it and from one outlet.

"It allows the units to use this organic UAV," said Patterson. "It's really changing things for the guys."

The new cases are also helping to prevent ware and tear on the systems since they reduce the need for constant reassembly.

"Now they have a small portable [option]," said Patterson.

Since that first box, Patterson has helped other units construct their own carrying cases for their T-Hawk systems, even designing one that could be carried as a backpack. He and the other T-Hawk FSRs have also begun incorporating building a new carrying case into the week long operator's course they facilitate.

For Patterson it's all about helping the Soldiers and Marines get the most of their equipment. "You just have to think outside the box, or think inside the box for this one."

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