Drone training SME UAVAIR has continued to train Army soldiers in drone operations, qualifying well over 1,000 soldiers with hundreds more on the way.
As Army’s drone roll-out continues, soldiers are finding new and novel ways of using UAVs on operations ranging from convoy protection to urban warfareand amphibious assaults. According to General Manager David Mann, the company has adapted their training program to match these new and novel methods in what has become a positive feedback cycle of drone literacy.
“We’re focusing more on the beyond visual line of sight aspects of the training,” Mann said to ADM. “Initially the program was about basic handling skills of the Phantom drone but now we’re talking about how it can be utilised beyond visual line of sight.
“Although [civilian] regulations don’t enable this, Defence regulations enable the use of beyond visual line of sight flight. That means soldiers can really take hold of how the drone can operate and how it can really function and be useful to Army as a whole.”
Soldiers are initially trained on DJI Phantom drones, which have ‘impressive’ capabilities for an off-the-shelf product.
“[Phantom] gets good visuals out to eight kilometres, and Army is really starting to use that functionality,” Mann said. “We’re seeing the soldiers use the drones to hover over the top of a suspected target. They’re also using them to scout ahead of their own convoy, scout the air or what’s around the corner, what’s across the river. So they’ve been very useful.”
Interestingly, the positive feedback loop between UAVAIR as the training organisation and end-users in Army is fuelled by social media.
“Some of the units have their own social media platform, Army has its own social media platform, and we’re able to see some of the types of things they’re doing with the Phantom drone,” Mann said. “We’ve got some great footage coming out of Talisman Sabre. [The Phantom] was being utilised beyond visual line of sight.”
The company has now incorporated these innovations into its training program.
“Now we ask the student to turn away from the drone while being monitored by our instructor and to be an observer and fly completely off the screen,” Mann said.
According to Mann, UAVAIR wants to continue the positive relationship with Army by collaborating on sustainment once the initial training program is complete.
“We need to start thinking about how sustainment would work because not everybody who initially is trained is going to get the opportunity to keep recent on the drone,” Mann said. “We’re always keen to work with the Army to talk about recency.”
The company also wants to secure further civilian work by leveraging its Defence experience.
“Being an SME, being able to be known in industry as a trusted partner of the Australian Army or Defence, it’s really helped in opening the doors and having that discussion,” Mann said. “It really gives you credibility.”