Fort Bragg flew its unmanned aircraft system into the future with the flight of the Gray Eagle MQ-1C from Camp Mackall Army Airfield to Fort Bragg, Wednesday.
It involved collaborative work with Soldiers, Range Control, Airfield Operations, the Federal Aviation Administration and other aviation professionals.
The Gray Eagle, with a gross takeoff weight of 3600 pounds, is a UAS produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
It’s designed to provide resources for ground troops and more, including surveillance, communications relay and fire support capabilities, said John Botello, Air Traffic Control and Live-Fire Control Room chief, who helped develop the flight pattern for the Gray Eagle, including over restricting airspace, R5311, for safety issues.
Because ensuring the safety of Fort Bragg during UAS operations is paramount, certain measures have been taken.
According to Wolf Amacker, Fort Bragg Range Control officer, those measures include emergency procedures and catastrophic procedures.
“If it (UAS) loses link …, it is pre-programmed to go to a particular area and fly a specifically programmed pattern at that location until it runs out of gas and just crashes and burns,” said Amacker.
The Gray Eagle has a minimum of four hours of reserve fuel, which allows four hours to clear any area, explained Botello.
Fort Bragg, Normandy Drop Zone has been selected as a pattern location because it is centrally located and can be easily cleared.
“Every precaution is being made to ensure that it does not go off the installation,” Amacker said. “It’s either being followed or tracked by radar.”
Operators used computer technology to fly the system from Camp Mackall. Most of the operators are service members attached to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division who will undergo training over the next two months, said Botello. With its specs — wing span of 56 feet and length of 28 feet — it will be ideal for ground units to have the opportunity to train on it.
“(It’s important) to understand how to operate and maximize all the capabilities and resources it brings to the battlefield,” he said.