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Joint Imaging Process Shaves Hours Off Emergency Recovery Operation

Joint Imaging Process Shaves Hours Off Emergency Recovery Operation

USJFCOM personnel and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit assisted the FAA with crash site and recovery coordinates during a recent emergency operation. By Army Sgt. Jon Cupp, USJFCOM Public Affairs.

Slidell, Louisiana -- (USJFCOM)  January 25, 2005 -- U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) personnel and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU) recently helped the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) locate and deliver aid to an aircraft crash site, shaving hours from the recovery operation.

The USJFCOM personnel were in the area participating in Extended Awareness 1 (EA1), an experiment designed to test unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sensor capabilities. They were running EA1 in conjunction with 26th MEU's Training, Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) in New Orleans Dec. 3-17.

Predator Archive Photo © Joël-François Dumont (Indian Spring AFB)

Under normal conditions USJFCOM would use the Predator UAV but, due to FAA restrictions on flying unmanned aircraft over urban areas, instead mounted the Predator's sensors on a manned aircraft called Pelican (1).

Photo General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

That circumstance turned out to be an extraordinary stroke of luck Dec. 14 when a New Orleans air traffic controller contacted Pelican's pilot requesting assistance in locating an aircraft crash site nearly 20 miles away. The pilot relayed the information to the FAA, USJFCOM and 26th MEU's headquarters.

According to Navy Cmdr. James Joyner, USJFCOM's Joint Operational Test Bed (JOTBS) operations director, no one anticipated performing in an emergency operation.

"We were conducting operations out of the Slidell airport and just happened on the emergency," Joyner said.

Pelican, USJFCOM and the Marines immediately suspended the experiment to aid in the real world emergency. From that point on, they played vital roles in the search and rescue operation.

"We were able to give the FAA information about the site with a degree of accuracy they normally don't have," Joyner said. "We gave the FAA the full capability of the assets we had available. Under normal situations, they just wouldn't have had that level of fidelity."

Pelican found the crash site then, using Predator's imaging systems, began sending imagery to 26th MEU headquarters where a Marine analyst processed it and precisely determined the site's location.

The pilot continued communications with air traffic controllers and worked as a conduit to get other supporting systems to the crash site, which was in a difficult to reach rural area.

"The Marine intelligence center took the video and with 30 seconds of work located the crash site inside 10 meters, they did a phenomenal job," Joiner said.

According to Joyner, the emergency validated the flexibility of the systems being tested during EA1.

"It showed tremendous applicability in helping people who wouldn't normally have these assets," said Joyner.

  • (1) The Pelican is a heavily-modified Cessna aircraft integrated with GA-ASI's proven UAV avionics to enable the aircraft to fly either manned or unmanned missions.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).