Australia's Heron UAV (all photos : Australian DoD)
The fourth rotation (ROT 4) of Australia’s Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Detachment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has set a unit record for monthly flying hours. Commanding Officer Heron RPA Detachment - ROT 4 Wing Commander Greg Wells said his personnel had achieved 475 hours during April.
"This exceeds the efforts of previous Heron rotations and means we have reached a point where we are able to achieve a significant amount of time on station providing an all-important ‘eye in the sky’ for our troops,” Wing Commander Wells said.
“One of the advantages of Heron is it can stay airborne for a very long time. We deliver enhanced situational awareness to our soldiers, which is vital in helping them achieve their mission on the ground.”
“The success of Heron is a combination of both smart technology and people. A typical Heron mission involves a lot of work from a very small team of specialists, ranging from engineers to intelligence officers, imagery analysts and pilots.”
The Heron team comprises 28 Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel. The tri-service unit has logged more than 4600 total flight hours since beginning operations in January last year.
Dubbed ‘Bluey’ by the Australians, the Heron can fly for up to 24 hours and is a key asset in the conduct of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the Afghanistan theatre of operations. It helps to protect Australian and Coalition forces, as well as Afghan civilians, from insurgent activity, including the laying of improvised explosive devices.
Information collected by the Heron is analysed and processed in real time. This means the commander has the benefit of having eyes on a target to build a more accurate picture of the battlespace.
Heron are operated from a ground base, controlled by trained pilots and can withstand a range of weather conditions.
“Every suspicious activity we investigate and every improvised explosive device activity we identify is potentially a life saved,” Wing Commander Wells said.
“We are very proud of the record-breaking milestone the team has achieved this month, and we will continue to push our performance to exceed this in the future.”
Heron ROT 4 currently operates three airframes forming part of a larger International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) RPA capability in Afghanistan. The Australian Heron RPAs are unarmed.