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AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye

United States (2002)

Detailing the development and operational history of the AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Tactical Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

 Entry last updated on 4/11/2018; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye  
Picture of AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Tactical Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Tthe AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye serves the United States Marine Corps by providing a critical eye-in-the-sky function over the battlefield.

The American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq during the first decade of the present century allowed the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry to flourish and this led to the introduction of many unmanned, remotely-piloted systems. The AeroVironment RQ-14 "Dragon Eye" was one product of the period, a compact, tactical reconnaissance-minded drone first flying in June of 2001. It was introduced a year later and has seen considerable service with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) as development was through the Naval Research Laboratory and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. Some 1,000 units were contracted for.

Outwardly, the Dragon Eye exhibits a conventional aircraft form with a centralized fuselage containing all pertinent mission equipment, a monoplane wing assembly, and vertical tail fin. The aircraft lacks horizontal tailplanes and an integrated undercarriage while its wing mainplanes are broad and straight in their design. The UAV's propulsion comes from a pair of two-bladed electric drive motors arranged ahead of the wing leading edges to either side of the fuselage. Dimensions of this aircraft include a wingspan of 3.75 feet and a length of 3 feet, allowing it to be relatively easily transported on the back of an infantryman. Its overall weight is a manageable six pounds.
Picture of the AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Tactical Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Picture of the AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Tactical Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

The Dragon Eye system is hand-launched, not requiring any complex undercarriage-with-runway arrangement or catapulting system. Forward momentum is enhanced by use of a bungee-style flexible cord which helps to add initial velocity. Once in the air and under its own power, the UAV utilizes a operator-programmed, waypoint-based navigation system through an integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial Navigation System (INS). The mission endurance window is approximately one hour. The UAV is tied to a Ground Control System (GCS) consisting of a heavy-duty laptop providing real-time color / high reolution InfraRed (IR) video imaging to the ground operator from the Dragon Eye unit. Transmission ranges (line-of-sight) reach out to 6 miles and the UAV holds an operational range out to 3 miles and a service ceiling up to 500 feet at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Recovery is simply by way of having the Dragon Eye unit land a relatively smooth surface - its frame is purposely designed to break apart and be put back together in short order. Should the unit suffer more catastrophic damage, its major components can easily by replaced from parts pulled from another Dragon Eye kit.

The Dragon Eye UAV continues to serve USMC units today (2015). Its transportability and ease-of-use with reliable function have made it an excellent addition to the Marine warfighter's growing high-tech arsenal. Additionally, its run-silent operation generally results in enemy forces unaware of its position overhead - a good alternative to the larger, higher-cost UAV systems currently available.
AeroVironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye Specifications
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United States
Year: 2002
Status: Active, In-Service
Type: Tactical Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Manufacturer(s): AeroVironment, Incorporated / Naval Research Laboratory / Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory - USA
Production: 1,000
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 0
Width: 3.61 ft (1.10 m)
Empty Weight: 7 lb (3 kg)
MTOW: 7 lb (3 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Single-use battery supplying power to 2 x Two-bladed electric motors.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 22 mph (35 kph; 19 kts)
Maximum Range: 3 mi (5 km; 3 nm)
Service Ceiling: 499 ft (152 m; 0.09 mi)

None. Payload consisting of cameras for general reconnaissance work: Dual forward-and-side-looking electro-optical camera, side-looking low light camera, and side-Looking IR camera.

Operators List
United States

Series Model Variants
• RQ-14 "Dragon Eye" - Base Series Designation

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