Raven Drone Becomes Cyber Carrier Pigeon

Hand-tossed scout can now relay messages

Solider In Iraq Tosses Raven UAV

Solider In Iraq Tosses Raven UAV

David Hodge, U.S. Army photo vis Wikimedia Commons

America’s Raven drone is not the most intimidating machine in the sky. Small, portable, and hand-tossed, it’s a light scout for troops on the ground, buzzing over a hill or around a building, looking out for enemies around corners. Now it’s getting a second job, as a carrier pigeon.

Well, not quite a carrier pigeon. Marines recently tested a new secure datalink for the raven, so that it can serve as a relay for confidential military communications. At the appropriately named “Talon Reach” exercises, the Raven carried a Small Secure Data Link in its nose, turning the under 5-pound drone into a hand-tossed radio relay. Other drones have done this before, but those are all much larger drones, like the plane-sized Global Hawk or larger, catapult-launched scouts. Adding relay abilities to hand-tossed scouts means that small groups using Ravens can communicate effectively over greater distances, passing along information securely to far-away units who might need it.

Assuming, of course, the troops can get the dang Raven in the air: