UAVs can function as ‘eyes in sky’

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The aircraft, referred to as an air frame, stays aloft about six hours and has a maximum range of 125 miles, which can be extended by placing a second control center farther up range. The control center consists of a container fitted to the back of a Humvee and outfitted with video and computer screens, keyboards and joysticks.

An air-vehicle operator pilots the craft while the payload operator sitting next to him controls the Shadow’s optical, video and laser package, which sits beneath the UAV’s nose and which can rotate 360 degrees.

Unlike the much larger and more sophisticated Predator, which is operated from an Air Force base in Salahaddin province, the Shadow carries no weapons.

“We run about two missions a day, each lasting six hours,” Maj. Mann said. “But it really depends on who we are supporting and their priorities that day. Originally it was designed to find mass movements of men and vehicles, but now it’s to gather more refined information.”

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