Saif Sareea UAV Trials

Commercial drones were trialled on Exercise Saif Sareea 3. (Crown Copyright)

David Oliver in Oman – During Saif Sareea 3, members of 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade under the command of Major Henry Jordan, SO2 Strike Experimental Group, Household Cavalry, experimented with the use of relatively cheap commercial quad-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a means to locate the enemy on the Barakat Training Area in the Sultanate of Oman.

Although the British Army had used vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Honeywell RQ16 T-Hawk Micro Air Vehicles in Afghanistan as part of Talisman counter-IED force, the only other VTOL system used by British Forces was the 16 gram Saab Back Hornet Nano-UAV.

In Oman, troops trialled a total of 14 different commercially available quad-rotor mini-UAVs controlled by 12 private soldiers with the minimum of training, for the first time in a major overseas military exercise. Under the Strike Experimental Group’s Project Raven, the object was to see if it would be effective to use large numbers, possibly swarms, of quad-rotor UAVs for short-range reconnaissance and route clearance rather than individual drones carried by soldiers.

The traditional way of ‘seeing over the hill’ is to climb on to a turret and scan the horizon with field glasses. According to Major Jordan, this will change in the future.

It is early days of Project Raven which will look at deconfliction issues, data acquisition, as well as the high pace of commercial drone technologies that needs to address the short life and high weight of Lithium Ion batteries before forming any future military requirements. Alternative power sources such as hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid gas-electric generators are being used to dramatically extend the endurance of quad-rotor and multi-rotor UAVs. Project Raven will also be trialling commercially available fixed-wing UAVs in the future.

by David Oliver