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RQ-14 Dragon Eye UAV

The RQ-14 Dragon Eye is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. The Dragon Eye is a small, lightweight UAV that can be transported by backpack, and launched by hand or using a bungee cord. Its primary role is urban surveillance and assault reconnaissance, in particular to provide "over the next hill" information to Marines on the ground.

Dragon Eye was developed by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory, and manufactured by AeroVironment. The Dragon Eye has been deployed in Iraq since 2003.

Marine with 5th Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Military Police Battalion, assembles a Dragon Eye unmanned aerial vehicle beside a HMMWV along Main Supply Route Lyman in Taqaddum, Iraq, 29 June 2005
Marine with 5th Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Military Police Battalion, assembles a Dragon Eye unmanned aerial vehicle beside a HMMWV along Main Supply Route Lyman in Taqaddum, Iraq, 29 June 2005.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Development

In early 2001, the Dragon Eye was created to meet the U.S. Marine Corps' Interim Small Unit Remote Scouting System (I-SUSS) requirement. Prototype testing began in June 2001, and in July, preproduction contracts were given to AeroVironment and BAI Aerosystems. Development systems from both manufacturers were evaluated, and production of the RQ-14 Dragon Eye was awarded to AeroVironment.

The Marine Corps started using the RQ-14 Dragon Eye in 2003. The UAV is fully autonomous and small enough to fit into a backpack. The UAV itself weighs 5.9 pounds, and its control system weighs approximately 12 pounds. A Dragon Eye system consists of three UAVs and the ground control equipment.

The Dragon Eye it is a twin-propeller fixed wing UAV with onboard GPS-INS for waypoint navigation. Soldiers operating the Dragon Eye monitor it through video goggles connected to a ruggedized laptop computer. The operator programs in waypoints to plot a course, which the Dragon Eye then follows autonomously using its onboard GPS. The operator can update the waypoints in flight as necessary.

The engines are powered by a single-use battery with a lifetime of 45 to 60 minutes. The battery-powered electric engine provides an extremely low noise signature. Combined with the 3.75-ft. wingspan, the Dragon Eye is difficult to detect.

The Dragon Eye was designed using a break-apart system to increase its durability. During high impacts, the craft breaks apart in pre-designed sites instead of shattering. These parts can then be reattached or replaced as necessary. The Dragon Eye frame is built exclusively from lightweight Kevlar and fiberglass.

Launch is accomplished with a bungee cord or an overhand throw of the Dragon Eye. Recovery involves a conventional horizontal landing on any stable surface.

Payloads include a dual forward- and side-look electro-optical (EO) camera, forward- and side-look low light camera, and side-look camera, all mounted in the nose. The Dragon Eye can provide real-time color or infrared imagery at high resolution over a range of up to three miles. The operator can also click and capture individual images as needed and store them on the control system computer.

Early in 2007, the RQ-14A designation was officially given to the Dragon Eye. The RQ-14B "Swift" is an upgraded version of the Dragon Eye. The RQ-14B uses the same control system as the Dragon Eye and other AeroVironment UAVs, and the Swift can be flown under full manual control. The U.S. military Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has received at least six Swift UAV systems.

Over 1,000 Dragon Eye UAVs have been manufactured, though the Marines have replaced it with the RQ-11 Raven.

RQ-14 Dragon Eye Operational History

The RQ-14 Dragon Eye has been deployed in post-invasion Iraq since 2003. Its first use was for reconnaissance and battle damage assessment. Though successful, limitations of the design also became apparent, including the lack of a zoom capability in the camera to quickly and reliably distinguish friend from foe.

In Iraq, the 2nd Military Police Battalion operates Dragon Eye UAVs for aerial reconnaissance and surveillance, in particular looking for IEDs and suspicious persons.

The Dragon Eye has also been assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which demonstrated the Dragon Eye for the 15th Kenyan Rifle Battalion in 2007.

Characteristics of the RQ-14 Dragon Eye

PayloadEO camera, forward- and side-look low light camera, side-look infrared camera
EngineSingle-use battery-powered electric, twin propeller
Speed20 mph
Range3.1 mi (1 hour flight time)
Ceiling500 ft.
Span3.75 ft.
Length3 ft.
Heightn/a
Weight5.9 lbs.

CPL James H. Wallenstein, a forward observer of Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, performs a function check on the short range unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle, Dragon Eye, before demonstrating a flight for the 15th Kenyan Rifle Battalion at Bargoni Range, Kenya, 9 March 2007.
CPL James H. Wallenstein, a forward observer of Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, performs a function check on the short range unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle, Dragon Eye, before demonstrating a flight for the 15th Kenyan Rifle Battalion at Bargoni Range, Kenya, 9 March 2007.

USMC LCPL David Fierro, 2nd Military Police Battalion, Bravo Company, 5th Platoon, launches the Dragon Eye UAV along main supply road Lyman Road, Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, 29 June 2005
USMC LCPL David Fierro, 2nd Military Police Battalion, Bravo Company, 5th Platoon, launches the Dragon Eye UAV along main supply road Lyman Road, Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, 29 June 2005.

USMC SGT Carlos Carrasco, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Twentynine Palms, CA, holds the Dragon Eye Interim-Small Unit Remote Scouting System (I-SURSS) as he prepares to launch it at Camp Ripper, Kuwait, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 7 March 2003
USMC SGT Carlos Carrasco, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Twentynine Palms, CA, holds the Dragon Eye Interim-Small Unit Remote Scouting System (I-SURSS) as he prepares to launch it at Camp Ripper, Kuwait, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 7 March 2003.

Dragon Eye Unmanned Ariel Reconnaissance Vehicle sits partially disassembled prior to a demonstration given to commanders during Kernal Blitz Experimental aboard Camp Pendleton, CA, 23 June 2001
Dragon Eye Unmanned Ariel Reconnaissance Vehicle sits partially disassembled prior to a demonstration given to commanders during Kernal Blitz Experimental aboard Camp Pendleton, CA, 23 June 2001.

Recommended Books about the RQ-14 Dragon Eye and UAVs

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