During battlefield exercises that took place in August at Fort Irwin, California, the Army tested new tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities to feed information directly to brigade combat team commanders.

This UAS is designed "to collect information on an adversary for analysis by cyber operators and military intelligence personnel," a release from Army Cyber Command stated.

Army Cyber Command told C4ISRNET that a new capability or program is not being undertaken at this time, but rather the UAS involved in the training exercises was a prototype to inform potential future programs or procurement. The payloads were outfitted to a commercial off-the-shelf quadcopter with 3-D-printed parts.

According to ARCYBER's release, the UAS supported the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team conducting reconnaissance of the training scenario's operational information environment.

The quadcopter was just a vehicle to provide the combatant commander the digital picture of his operating environment, a participant at the training exercise told C4ISRNET at the annual AUSA conference. They added the device was outfitted with a passive payload to provide this digital picture.

The importance these tactical systems provide is vital information to brigade commanders quickly, important nuggets deemed "tactical insights."

"Information gathered from unmanned vehicles and other means can provide useful insight to the commander in an area of operations, once it is analyzed," ARCYBER noted Capt. Samuel Lough, an offensive cyber operations planner for the exercise, said.

"Just like your cell phone picks up random Wi-Fi, this does the same thing," another participant at the exercise described, adding that as the devices fly overhead, it provides the names of networks and signal strength.

This small system was borne out, in part, because the Army ran into problems with mounted versions that were originally fielded in terms of where commanders needed them on the battlefield, another participant said. This was where the quadcopter came in.

The participants said feedback was very good for this makeshift solution adding many hopes it becomes more widely adopted citing widespread praise.