Camp Ripley Celebrates New Drone Base [AUDIO, PHOTOS]
CAMP RIPLEY -- The Camp Ripley National Guard base is celebrating the newest Unmanned Aircraft System Operations Facility in the Midwest.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday to showcase the nearly 13,000 square foot building. Included in the facility is a hangar for the Shadow and Raven - two Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS - flight simulators and additional office space.
Staff Sergeant Eli James says this is a big improvement over their former operation.
The UAS vehicles are strictly used for surveillance training within the camp's perimeter. Camp Ripley is one of three such bases found within the five state area. James says they hope to bring soldiers from neighboring states in to help train and prepare for actual combat situations.
The Shadow System is a 475 pound vehicle with a 12 foot wingspan. The Raven is a four pound unit, capable of traveling 6.2 miles. Sergeant Christopher Storkamp says the Raven's durability serves troops well in combat.
The larger Shadow costs just under $1 million per vehicle while the smaller Raven runs about $10,000. The camp has a total of three Shadow and Raven crafts apiece.
A platoon of 30 Soldiers use and operate the UAS vehicles in the camp.
These vehicles, often referred to as drones, have been the topic of recent national headlines. Senator Rand Paul lead a 13 hour filibuster in the Washington, D.C. over the domestic use of such units.
Storkamp says they have even seen citizen protests at the front gate of the camp. However, he says Minnesotans have nothing to worry about when it comes to privacy.
Multiple officials at the ceremony stress that these vehicles are saving the lives of countless American Soldiers. The same officials point out Camp Ripley is not too far from the Little Falls home of another famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh.