Army Embraces Drones: Units Experiment with Unmanned Systems

Army Leaders Push for More Drones

According to a recent Defense One article, the U.S. Army is increasingly integrating drones and other unmanned systems into its units. From division to division, soldiers are learning to operate a growing array of robots and drones, both in the air and on the ground.

Army Leaders Push for More Drones

Army Chief of Staff Randy George has made it clear that he wants to see more drones in more units.

“We're going to see robotics inside the formation, on the ground and in the air,” he told Defense One in March.

Junior officers and enlisted soldiers are now engaged in wide-ranging experiments to answer this call, learning to train for, field, and operate these new systems.

Capt. Adam Johnson, commander of the experimental Gainey Company in the 82nd Airborne, said, “No longer is a drone just a safety net for soldiers on patrol. They have a purpose.”

Units Experiment with Drone Training and Organization

Gainey Company's Robotics and Autonomous Systems platoon is evaluating the technical aspects of commercially available small drones, particularly low-cost, first-person-view (FPV) drones. The unit builds its own FPVs from scratch using components from approved suppliers.

The unit has also grappled with how to best train and organize drone operators. Early iterations of Gainey Company included soldiers with limited drone experience, which proved challenging. Now, the unit staffs itself with permanently assigned, highly skilled drone operators.

Other units, like the 101st Airborne's Multi-Functional Reconnaissance Company, are incorporating drones for identifying and targeting enemy units with indirect fire. The 3rd Infantry Division is also working to start an FPV training program this summer.

Army Launches Drone Competition

The Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence recently launched the inaugural “Beehive Classic” drone competition. The two-day event consisted of physical challenges alongside navigating drones in indoor and outdoor courses, with tasks like investigating enemy positions and using the RQ-28 quadcopter to bomb vehicles with water balloons.

The Army hopes to make this an annual competition, potentially including other government entities and events like using drones to call for artillery fire or engaging bunkers and trenches.

DroneXL's Take

The U.S. Army's increasing embrace of drones and unmanned systems is a significant development that could reshape how the service operates on the battlefield. As we've seen in recent conflicts like Ukraine, drones can provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as the ability to strike targets remotely.

This trend aligns with the broader military drone market, which is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The Army's experimentation with low-cost, commercial drones also reflects the Pentagon's efforts to leverage the rapid innovation in the civilian drone sector.

As the Army continues to integrate drones into its units and develop new tactics and training programs, it will be important to watch how this shapes the service's overall strategy and capabilities. The rise of drones could have far-reaching implications for everything from reconnaissance to artillery strikes to supply delivery on the battlefield.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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