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'Dragon Eye' Flies High Over 26th MEU, Kenyan Army

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070313-02
Release Date: 3/13/2007 12:15:00 PM

By Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs

BARGONI, Kenya (NNS) -- Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU)Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/2 demonstrated one of their capabilities to personnel from the Kenyan Army on March 9 .

The Marines demonstrated the value of the Short Range Unmanned Arial Reconnaissance Vehicle (UAV), known as the “Dragon Eye.” The Dragon Eye is a small, battery powered aircraft which resembles many of the commercially available radio-control model airplanes available on the market.

The resemblance is only superficial, however, as the kevlar-coated airplane plays a serious role on the battlefield as an asset in the Marine Corps inventory.

Battalion Commander, Kenyan Army, 15th Rifles Lt. Col. Tom Chepkuto, said he was impressed by the system.

“It is a good system,” he said. “I’m impressed it can be operated by only three people, and has so many capabilities.”

The Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU were in Kenya conducting bilateral training with elements of the Kenyan armed forces during Exercise Edged Mallet 2007.

Marine Cpl. James H. Wallenstein, a forward observer in BLT 2/2, is a member of the team which operates the machinery and said the Dragon Eye is a huge asset to any unit fortunate enough to operate one.

“It is invaluable. It gives the troops on the deck an advantage over the enemy,” said Wallenstein. “Speaking as an infantryman, this is an excellent piece of gear. It gives us near real-time information whenever we want it. Speaking as a forward observer, the center-point of the camera gives us a grid and coordinates that we can call fire into.”

The UAV is equipped with two cameras, one in the nose and one on the side. A variety of cameras are interchangeable on the UAV to quickly adjust to conditions. The cameras project images to the laptop computer and a pair of glasses which have computer screens inside them.

The UAV is controlled by a laptop computer included with the system. The operator programs a pre-planned route into the computer aboard the UAV, and once launched, the UAV flies autonomously at 35 mph for up to 45 minutes, then lands itself. The Dragon Eye system is easy to transport. Everything fits in a small pack that a Marine carries on his or her back, and the UAV itself weighs five pounds with its battery.

Wallenstein said it can be programmed for almost any mission a unit may require.

“We can have it do route reconnaissance, fly in a circle keeping its camera on an area, fly security keeping its cameras outboard, or follow a road ahead of a convoy to give security,” he said.

The 26th MEU is comprised of the Command Element; the Ground Combat Element, BLT 2/2; the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26; and the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (Reinforced).

The 26th MEU, along with the ships from the USS Bataan (LHD 5) Strike Group, Bataan, USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), USS Shreveport (LPD 12), USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS Underwood (FFG 36) and USS Scranton (SSN 756), deployed in early January on a routine, scheduled deployment.

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