Marines Test Fire Scout Drone Alongside Manned Helicopters

Marines Test Fire Scout Drone Alongside Manned Helicopters

The Marine Corps test is another example of how manned-unmanned teaming can help improve operations and deliver data to human decision-makers.


The Marine Corps is making progress to network drones and helicopters together for integrated attacks through new applications of manned-unmanned teaming. The project will help introduce new possibilities for attacks using manned-unmanned teaming.

A recent demonstration from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One involved operations using UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters with an unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout drone, according to a press release. The helicopters carried out attacks while the drone helped detect targets and coordinate the strike.


“Adversaries are going to be placed on the horns of a dilemma as we strengthen our naval expeditionary force in leveraging unmanned systems to complement our rotary wing,” said Marine Corps Maj. Ben Henry, according to the press release.

Using the Fire Scout for manned-unmanned teaming operations would make it even more effective as a reconnaissance asset. Information from the drone could be sent to helicopters, warships, and other assets in position to respond to threats. The concept should truncate sensor-to-shooter time and deliver critical data at speeds that can address threats before an enemy can respond.

The Fire Scout and other unmanned systems can process large amounts of data, analyze the data, and deliver information to human decisionmakers. This is a significant improvement for drones used in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) roles. This real-time processing technology should only improve as artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities continue to develop in the coming years. 

The Fire Scout has recently begun using a new pod called the Single System Multi-Mission Airborne Mine Detection to help these operations. The SMAMD uses an “airborne sensor suite that will have the ability to have real-time onboard processing coupled with low false alarm rates will enable the warfighter to respond swiftly to detected threats,” according to Naval Air Systems Command.

Faster processing at the point of collection is an extremely impactful technological breakthrough for mine-hunting missions and ISR overall. Instead of needing to return and manually upload or present threat information for analysis, AI-enabled computer data processing can take place at the point of collection to expedite the ISR and decision-making progress exponentially.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.