IMINT as the military calls it, or Imagery Intelligence and the civilian world calls it aerial photography. Another arrow in your quiver for your overall intelligence gathering capabilities. Drones can be used to give the individual or group real time aerial imagery intelligence. The general public has access to pretty advanced drones these days. The drones available today have clear onboard cameras for both photos and video. A drone should be viewed as a camera with wings instead of an remote controlled aircraft with a camera. The drones can be flown up to hundreds of feet above ground level and essentially parked at a location in the air while holding its position without operating the controller because of its onboard GPS. The operator can watch a location or it can be flown along a route. The video on the controller gives you a live shot of the activity on the ground. A photograph and video can be stored on a flash drive inserted into the drone to be analyzed at a future time. The drone can travel parallel to your target and take photos at an oblique angle which can supplement satellite images.
The images obtained from the drone flight can be compared to satellite photos online such as Google Earth or even to supplement them. The drone can be used to fill gaps from these satellite images because of outdated files or tree cover blocking some or all of information on the ground.
The weak points of a drone is that they can be heard which sounds similar to a chainsaw or weed eater. If flown at a low altitude, they can be shot down or collide with an object. They can give away the operator’s position when launched or landed. To mitigate this, its suggested that the flight be at a high altitude and to stay on a direct course. Changing the direction of travel, raising and lowering the altitude will have a tendency to make more noise thereby drawing attention to its flight. Make a smooth flight across your location of interest and it should not be noticed. Also consider launching it from outside of the group’s location and landing it in another spot.
A recent Scout Course taught by NC Scout mentioned using a drone during the class. I am sure it was a valuable piece of kit to put eyes in the air up above their target and without putting anyone in enemy sights.
If you haven’t yet made the purchase, a DJI Mavic Mini is a popular choice that has top notch reviews and packs up into the palm of your hand. I have this drone and extremely happy with its capabilities and price. I suggest purchasing their Fly More Combo package. By having a drone in your arsenal, you can see more of your Area of Operation and not subject anyone to hostile fire. That alone makes it well worth it.
Here are a few links to watch in considering the addition of a valuable intelligence gathering device:
Eyes On The Target