Libyan rebels are using the Aeryon Scout micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in their fight against pro-Gaddafi forces, after receiving one of the aircraft from Canadian manufacturer Aeryon Labs.
While numerous UAVs operate over Libya (such as the Predator, Fire Scout and ScanEagle), these are all NATO assets, leaving rebels without their own platform. However, Aeryon Labs earlier this week revealed that rebels have been using its Scout to acquire intelligence on enemy positions and to coordinate resistance efforts.
The company said that representatives from the Transitional National Council (TNC) were looking for an imagery solution to provide to the troops on the ground and chose the Scout after evaluating a series of micro UAVs.
In cooperation with the private security company Zariba Security Corporation and the Libyan Transitional National Council, Libyan troops were trained in-country on the use of the Scout UAV. Docking in the besieged city of Misrata, after an 18-hour boat ride from Malta, a representative from Zariba Security delivered and conducted Scout UAV training, which began at the Misrata Airport.
“After only one demonstration flight, the TNC soldiers operated the following flight,” said Charles Barlow of Zariba. “I was amazed how easy it was to train people with no previous UAV or aircraft experience, especially given the language barrier. Soldiers need tough, intuitive equipment – and the Scout delivered brilliantly.”
With only a day and a half of training flights and a few familiarization flights, Aeryon Labs said the rebels put the Scout into service on the frontline and have so far operated it without any incident.
The Scout, developed from 2007–2009, is a small vertical takeoff and landing UAV that weighs only 1.5 kg (3 lbs) and can be packed into a suitcase or a backpack. Instead of using joysticks, the Scout uses a map-based, touch-screen interface that allows new users to pilot the system in just minutes. The Scout essentially flies itself, allowing the operator to focus on acquiring imagery, Aeryon Labs said.
The Scout has four rotors, each powered by a brushless DC electric motor, ensuring nearly silent operation. The vehicle can operate up to 3 km from the user, with a designed operational altitude above ground level of 300–500 feet at flying speeds of up to 50 km/h. It can tolerate winds of up to 80 km/h.
Libyan rebels are using the Scout’s day and night-time cameras. The day camera allows them to gather detailed images and video, while the night-time camera is a thermal imager, gathering heat images of equipment and people on the ground. Each image is embedded with date and time stamps and latitude and longitude information for every target.
Aeryon said other countries in the Middle East are in the process of buying the UAV. It is currently being used by police in Canada and a company called Geo-Rhea is flying it to collect environmental data, including, for example, the size of coal piles. And BP used several Scouts to monitor the oil spill during its clean-up efforts in the Gulf.