Marine Corps Begins Delivering Quadcopters to Squads

By Connie Lee
A Marine assists his squad by providing reconnaissance with an unmanned aerial system

Photo: Defense Dept.

The Marine Corps moved forward with an initiative to field quadcopters to all squads last month, according to the commanding general of the service’s combat development command and deputy commandant for combat development and integration. 

The service decided to purchase over 800 systems at the end of last year as a result of information gathered from experiments such as Sea Dragon 2025, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International event at National Harbor, Maryland. 

“We never had anything like that even at the company level. It was much higher at the battalion level. We’re getting one for every single squad in the entire Marine Corps,” he said, noting the service began delivering the systems at the end of last month. The quadcopters are expected to give Marines additional situational awareness when operating on the ground. 

Following the 2016 release of its new operating concept called “How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” the service has been conducting a number of exercises focused on testing new technology in an operational setting. 

But the Marine Corps must ensure it does not “burden” units as it works to integrate new technology, he said. Many Marines reported needing additional personnel during these exercises, he said. 

“They actually needed more Marines in the units to help them with the technology,” he said. “So that’s a piece there of machine learning … man-unmanned teaming and artificial intelligence moving in that direction.” 

The service is looking to potentially have additional roles such as a technology leader within the squad to work with these systems, he added. However, it is also examining ways to make technology work “better together” to avoid the need for more Marines, he noted. 

“We want to unburden them,” he said. “An F-35 pilot … has all these sensors on his aircraft … and he can declutter and displace and bring in what information he wants. That’s the kind of information we’ve got to get down to lower levels.”


Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Marine Corps News, Robotics

Comments (2)

Re: Marine Corps Begins Delivering Quadcopters to Squads

If we have them, our enemies have them. What squad member is the designated drone-killer, and what is he/she packing?

Bill at 6:01 PM
Re: Marine Corps Begins Delivering Quadcopters to Squads

Just a note, the "Marine" in the photo with this article appears to be wearing USN E3 rank on his collar and name tab. Corpsman perhaps?

Scott Swartz at 5:49 PM
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