While NATO countries fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) high above Libya, providing vital intelligence to NATo air forces, imagery was made available to directly support the Libyans rebels. But, according to Canadian UAV manufacturer Aeryon, the Libyan rebels have also obtained at least one drone to independently acquire intelligence on enemy positions and coordinate their resistance efforts.

Libyan artillery position tracked by an Aeryon Scout micro-UAV operated by Libyan rebels. Images acquired by the UAV are embedded with date and time stamps to provide accurate latitude and longitude information for every target, assisting NATO air forces to pursue these targets in support of anti- Qadaffi forces. Photo: Aeryon

The Aeryon Scout is a small, easy-to-fly man-packable flying robotic reconnaissance system. It weighs just 3 pounds, packs into a suitcase or a backpack and can be quickly and easily deployed and operated in the field. Instead of using joysticks, the Scout uses a map-based, touch-screen interface that, according to Aeryon, allows new users to pilot the system in just minutes. The Scout was designed for desert operation, such as this use in Libya, able to operate in temperatures up to +50C and in sandy or wet conditions.

Libyan government forces fire D46 130mm artillery from a position tracked by rebels operating the Aeryon Scout micro UAV, using a thermal camera for night operations. Photo: Aeryon

Representatives from the Transitional National Council (TNC) were looking for an imagery solution to support their troops. They wanted a simple, short range system that will provide direct support for their front line troops, without complicated training, handling, communications and logistics associated with larger systems.

The Canadian government, which has recognized Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya, approved the sale, paving the way for the delivery of UAS to the Libyan rebels. It was the first time that a Western government has allowed the transfer of drone technology to an insurgency. The Scout answered their requirements and the affordability of the system has also been a consideration, with the Scout sold for about $120,000 apiece.

In cooperation with the Zariba Security Corporation and the Libyan Transitional National Council, Libyan troops were trained in-country on the use of the Aeryon Scout UAV. “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, the rebels put the Scout into service on the frontline. “The system has been operating perfectly, with no incidents – quite impressive for those familiar with the statistics of other small UAVs in operational theaters,” said Barlow. With its Vertical Take off and Landing (VTOL) ability, the Scout can be deployed in tight quarters, and hover and stare at its target.

The Libyans use both day and night-time cameras. The day camera allows for the gathering of detailed images and video. For night missions they use a thermal imager clearly identifying military equipment and people on the ground by their heat signature.

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