Marine Corps infantry squads begin receiving unmanned quadcopters

By Lee Hudson / February 6, 2018 at 11:48 AM

More than a year after Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for every infantry squad to be outfitted with an unmanned quadcopter, his goal is taking shape.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said today the service began delivering quadcopters Jan. 31.

The Marine Corps is providing about 200 quadcopters per month, Walsh told reporters on the sidelines of an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference. Concurrently, the service is developing a training and readiness syllabus for the platform, he added.

"We have a working group right now -- it's go fast, don't solve all of the problems, get them out there to them," Walsh said. "That's what the commandant demanded."

The working group is tackling problems such as where to store the quadcopters and who will perform training.

The decision to rapidly field quadcopters emerged from the first phase of Sea Dragon 2025, which wrapped up last year. Walsh said the commandant made 30 to 40 decisions as a result of the outbrief.

The first phase was focused on equipping the fifth-generation Marine Corps infantry squad. The commandant still has not determined how infantry squads should be configured.

"They wanted an assistant to the squad leader. That became clear very early," Walsh said. "We haven't made a decision on that, but I think we will make one soon."

The assistant squad leader will mostly likely be the best fire team member in the unit, he said. There is another faction within the service that is pushing for an "infantry systems manager" in addition to an assistant squad leader. The infantry systems manager could be the most tech-savvy member of the infantry squad or it could be a Marine with a communications specialty.