Australian Herons achieve record flying hours

The fourth rota­tion (ROT 4) of Australia’s Heron Remote­ly Pilot­ed Air­craft (RPA) Detach­ment in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan, has set a unit record for month­ly fly­ing hours. Com­mand­ing Offi­cer Heron RPA Detach­ment — ROT 4 Wing Com­man­der Greg Wells said his per­son­nel had achieved 475 hours dur­ing April.

“This exceeds the efforts of pre­vi­ous Heron rota­tions and means we have reached a point where we are able to achieve a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time on sta­tion pro­vid­ing an all-impor­tant ‘eye in the sky’ for our troops,” Wing Com­man­der Wells said. 

“One of the advan­tages of Heron is it can stay air­borne for a very long time. We deliv­er enhanced sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness to our sol­diers, which is vital in help­ing them achieve their mis­sion on the ground.” 

“The suc­cess of Heron is a com­bi­na­tion of both smart tech­nol­o­gy and peo­ple. A typ­i­cal Heron mis­sion involves a lot of work from a very small team of spe­cial­ists, rang­ing from engi­neers to intel­li­gence offi­cers, imagery ana­lysts and pilots.” 

The Heron team com­pris­es 28 Aus­tralian and New Zealand Defence Force per­son­nel. The tri-ser­vice unit has logged more than 4600 total flight hours since begin­ning oper­a­tions in Jan­u­ary last year. 

Dubbed ‘Bluey’ by the Aus­tralians, the Heron can fly for up to 24 hours and is a key asset in the con­duct of intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance mis­sions in the Afghanistan the­atre of oper­a­tions. It helps to pro­tect Aus­tralian and Coali­tion forces, as well as Afghan civil­ians, from insur­gent activ­i­ty, includ­ing the lay­ing of impro­vised explo­sive devices. 

Infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed by the Heron is analysed and processed in real time. This means the com­man­der has the ben­e­fit of hav­ing eyes on a tar­get to build a more accu­rate pic­ture of the battlespace. 

Heron are oper­at­ed from a ground base, con­trolled by trained pilots and can with­stand a range of weath­er conditions. 

“Every sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty we inves­ti­gate and every impro­vised explo­sive device activ­i­ty we iden­ti­fy is poten­tial­ly a life saved,” Wing Com­man­der Wells said. 

“We are very proud of the record-break­ing mile­stone the team has achieved this month, and we will con­tin­ue to push our per­for­mance to exceed this in the future.” 

Heron ROT 4 cur­rent­ly oper­ates three air­frames form­ing part of a larg­er Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) RPA capa­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan. The Aus­tralian Heron RPAs are unarmed. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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