Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are flexible assets of great value in any operational theatre for the indispensable surveillance and intelligence-gathering capability they provide.
The Canadian Forces has used the CU-161 Sperwer tactical UAV in Afghanistan since 2003 where there is a high demand for the kind of imagery and data gathered by UAVs. In 2009, a newer and more capable Canadian UAV took to the skies over Afghanistan – the CU-170 Heron.
The Heron is leased from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of Vancouver, BC to replace the Sperwer and meet the urgent and growing demand for UAV support to operations until a long-term UAV solution is in place.
The Heron’s primary functions are to gather imagery and data for use in surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence analysis and target acquisition. It can scout out convoy routes and other ground operations areas, scan for insurgents, or observe suspicious activity, such as planting improvised explosive devices. Its capabilities will help reduce insurgent attacks, and save lives – Canadian and Afghan alike.
The imagery and data gathered by the Sperwer tactical UAV is in high demand in Kandahar, but its range is limited to the area that can be covered by a unit or a battle group. With its range and varied package of high-performance sensors, the Heron UAV can cover the entire Canadian area of responsibility.