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UAVs basics and in-depth guide


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This guide will look at how to operate UAVs while focusing on I&A.  Currently 2 guides already exist but they are in some areas outdated.  It's written shortly after the release of the laws of war DLC, for I&A version 3.2.9.  Parts have been taken from the 2 previous guides, credits can be found at the bottom.  

(Last edited: 17/08/2018)


1.  What do i need?
First of we'll look at the what a UAV operator needs to effectively operate his UAVs.
The most important thing for a UAV operator is the UAV terminal.  Without it you're basically just any other rifleman.  The UAV terminal can be found in the arsenal and goes into the same slot as the GPS.  
Once you get this just take a default rifleman loadout, i personally suggest to always carry a rifle and not an SMG to be able to effectively defend yourself.  I also recommend taking a proper vest and not webbing so you can survive getting shot at.
Optionally a UAV operator can carry one of the drones that fits in a backpack.  Currently there are 2, which one you carry is up to you to decide.  We'll talk about these 2 drones some more in 'assets available to UAV operators'.


As a UAV operator your role is to support the infantry fighting on the ground.  You can do this by providing intelligence and/or CAS.  Do keep in mind that the UAV is considered to be a support asset.  Meaning that you will have to get clearance/a request from an infantry guy on the ground before you can provide CAS.
Communication is key for the UAV operator regardless of what you decide to do with your UAVs.  If you provide intel you have to relay this intel to people on the ground and if you CAS you'll have to get clearance from someone on the ground and further coordinate with them.


2.  Where should i be as a UAV operator?

Depending on what you personally prefer you, as a UAV operator, can either be at base sitting back or in the battlefield with your squad providing intelligence.

If you prefer to sit in base you'll have to keep in mind that base protection is currently very eager to stop you from shooting.  Because of this if you drop a GBU with your UAV at the AO while sitting inside base protection your GBU will be deleted.  We are trying to find a fix for this but until then you'll have to sit 300 meters away from the spawn point.  At main base you can sit at the greyhawk spawn, at FOB guardian you can sit in the main terminal, ...


If you prefer to be in the field providing intel keep in mind that enemies can walk up on you while you're controlling your UAVs.  So either have your squad in close proximity protecting you or make sure that you're in decent cover, for example in a building.

3.  Assets available to UAV operators

There are several different types of UAVs available to UAV operators in I&A, a short list of them with weapons, qualities, additional info, ...
An MQ-4A Greyhawk:


The main tool of a UAV operator. 
Fixed wing turbo-push-prop unmanned aerial vehicle.

Weapons: 2x GBU-12, laser guided bomb

Amount of flares: 240 flares (24 bursts, 120 singles)

Build in laser designator: yes

Sensors:  - ~45° Visual, range ~2 km

              - ~45° Infrared, range ~3 km
              - 360° RWR, range 12 km

              - 180° laser spot tracker, range 6 km


Role:  High level recon/observation, high level bomber, aerial designator platform
Handling:  Rather slow, NOT able to pull out of high speed dives, not suited to divebomb.  Has no significant airbrake.


Spawn rate:  2x greyhawks spawn at base with a respawn timer of around 5 minutes.



A UCAV Sentinel (requires jets DLC):


Ideal tool to fly in deliver payload and get the heck out of there missions.

Fixed wing twin-jet-engine unmanned aerial vehicle.

Weapons: 2x GBU-12, laser guided bombs
Amount of flares: 120 flares (12 bursts, 60 singles)

Build in laser designator: yes

Sensors: - 60° active radar, range ~7 km

             - 51° infrared, range ~3.5 km

            - 51° visual, range ~3 km

             - 360° RWR, range 12 km

             - 180° laser spot tracker, range 6 km


Role:  High level bomb drops, strike bomber, high speed bomber
Handling:  Because of twin jet engine design it excels at speed but because of high fuel consumption can't stay in the air for to long.  Has excellent all around handling except for jawing because of the lack of a vertical stabilizer and thus no rudder.  


Spawn rate:  1x spawns on the carrier every 10-15 minutes




An MQ-12 Falcon (requires APEX):


Weapons: 6x scalpel ATGM, 2x DAR pods (dumbfire rockets)

Amount of flares: 120 flares (12 bursts, 60 singles)

Build in laser designator: yes

Sensors: 50° combined visual/infrared sensor, range ~2.5km 

             360° RWR, range 12km

             180° laser spot tracking, range 6km


Role:  Close air support provider, aerial designator platform, reconnaissance


Spawn rate: spawns as a reward from side missions, does not respawn




An AR-2 Darter:


small rotary-winged quadcopter

Weapons: none

Amount of flares: none

Build in laser designator: yes

Sensors:  51° combined infrared/visual sensor  Can detect vehicles at ~1.5km
                                                                   Can detect humans at 500m 


Role: Reconnaissance, aerial designator platform
Handling: very sensitive to user input


Spawn rate: can be spawned by placing down the backpack.  Backpack can be taken from the arsenal as often as needed.




An AL-6 Pelican (requires laws of war DLC):


A small rotary-winged octacopter that can transport items

Weapons: none

Amount of flares: none

Build in laser designator: no

sensors: has no real sensors, has a camera for the driver with normal and night vision. 


Role: Reconnaissance, logistical role
Handling:  Less touchy than the darter but still touchy.


Spawn rate: can be spawned by placing down the backpack.  Backpack can be taken from the arsenal as often as needed.



A UGV Stomper


A support vehicle, mainly suited for transport of weapons, ammunition, etc.

Weapons: none

Amount of flares: none

Build in laser designator: no


Role: logistical support role
Handling:  Has a rather large turning radius because none of it's wheels actually turn, wheels on one side will just go faster than he ones on the other side, similar to how tracks work.  Has an average speed


Spawn rate: Respawns at base with a respawn timer of 1 minute.



Which of these tools you should use depends on the job you're trying to get done and your own personal preference.


4. Taking control over UAVs

To take control over your UAVs open your UAV terminal with the scroll option.  Then go to the top left and use the dropdown menu to select which UAV you want to control.  When hovering over one of the scroll options that UAV will be highlighted on the map in the center of the screen.
After having selected the UAV from the dropdown-list you can in most cases take control of the gunner or the driver by clicking the take control button.  These are located just above the gunner and the driver cam which can be found at the top right of your screen in the UAV terminal.
For unknown reasons UAVs tend to be 'stuck' right after respawning.  You can throttle the engine up to 100% and the bloody thing won't move.  To fix this just take controls over the driver, throttle it up to 100%, release control and keep repeating this until the UAV starts moving.


5. Taking off fixed wing UAVs
Taking off fixed wing UAVs is pretty much the same as taking off fixed wing airplanes.  I'll discuss taking off on a traditional runway and on the carrier.
When taking off on a traditional runway you start off by lining up with the runway at one of the ends.  If it's your first time taking that UAV of from that airfield be sure to start at the very start of the runway to avoid running out of runway.  When you're lined up put the flaps all the way down and throttle the UAV up to 100%.  Refrain from making any vertical inputs but do make horizontal inputs if the UAV is turning too much to the left or right.  Now simply wait till you reach takeoff speed.  For the greyhawk takeoff speed is around 90-100 km/h, for the sentinel this is around 200-220 km/h.  Once you reach takeoff speed pull up the necessary amount to clear any obstacles at the end of the runway safely.  Once you're in the air for a few seconds and gained some more speed retract the flaps and start climbing to the desired altitude.  
When taking off from a carrier simply line the UAV up with the catapult and use the hold-action (press and hold the scroll wheel option 'initiate launch sequence').  Because arma will be arma you can take of any type of fixed wing aircraft from the carrier.


6. Landing fixed wing UAVs
Same as in 5. it's the same as fixed wing airplanes and i'll discuss landing on a normal runway and on the carrier. For both the following applies: the more you practise the better you'll get at it.  I'm not going to give a lot of numbers as you should learn them while practising.  Those numbers are also different for every person.

On a traditional runway you'll need to be lined up with the runway, if you're not that experienced, several times the length of a runway, so somewhere around 1-2km before the beginning of the runway.  Be sure to not approach too high or too low.  If you're dodging threes 1 km out you're too low. Set your flaps to the middle or lower stand depending on your personal preference.  From here start reducing speed to just about stalling speed, for the greyhawk this is around 80-90 km/h (depending on flap configuration) for the UCAV this is around 200km/h (also depending on flap configuration).  Be sure to reach this speed somewhere between 0 and 500 m from the beginning of the runway.  When you're above the runways just smoothly put it down on the ground, avoid smashing into the runway.  This because it can damage/destroy your vehicle or you might bounce right back up in the sky.  

Now on the carrier you have the same principle but be sure to have your tailhook down.  Also keep your speed just a bit higher to have some more manoeuvrability and line up just a bit further away than you would for a normal runway.


7. Taking off and landing rotor wing UAVs

Taking off rotor wing UAVs is as easy as powering up and increasing collective.  Do check that there is nothing above you when doing this :)

For landing i'll refer you to Dslyexci's art of flight video on landings, yes he does it for helicopters but there isn't that much difference.  


8. Commanding your UAVs with the UAV terminal

To control a UAV with the UAV terminal first of said UAV should be connected to your UAV terminal and autonomous has to be set to true.  (This can be checked on the left hand side, if the box is ticked the UAV will be autonomous, if said to false it'll start falling from the sky)

To add waypoints for the UAV simply (left) ctrl + left click.  If you want to override all previously set waypoints use (left) shift + left click.
After having set waypoints you can alter them.  You can do this by right clicking on the waypoint and selecting what you want from the drop down menu.


9. Getting your UAVs in a position to strike

Because there is a major difference between rotary and fixed wing UAVs they'll be discussed separately.

9.1 rotor wing UAVs

Because of arma being arma rotor wing UAVs have a tendency to start spinning wildly in place if you give any altitude waypoint.  So either first get them up to the desired altitude and give move waypoints then or first give move waypoints and when these are completed get it up to the desired altitude.  
Rotor winged UAVs are best used from a high level hover.  This hover doesn't have to be straight above the thing you want to observer/attack but can be several hundred meters to several kilometers out.  I personally use them at an altitude of 2000m at least 1 to max 2 km out from the thing i'm observing/attacking.

9.2 fixed wing UAVs
After takeoff get your UAVs up to the desired altitude with the steps described in point 8.  After this you can either make a patrol path you want it to follow by putting several waypoints down and then put a cycle waypoint down next to your first waypoint. Or you wan use the build in loiter waypoint.  This will make your UAV turn circles, with a radius that you set, (counterclockwise) around the waypoint you just set.
Fixed wing UAVs are best used following a patrol path or in a loiter also at high altitude.  I personally will set the 2 greyhawks up at 2000m altitude 1 circling 1-2km north of the northern edge of the AO and one 1-2km south of the southern edge of the AO  (or east-west, NE-SW, ... depending on the situation).

10. Striking 
There are several ways to get your UAV to deliver a payload somewhere, i'll discuss the best way to do this in my opinion.
First you'll need to take control over the driver of the UAV.  Next toggle manual fire, make sure you have the right ordinance selected.  Now move in on the target, lock it and fire away (more on this in 11).  After this don't stick around too long, move on, people on the ground will confirm the hit for you.
The other options one could use to strike are: having the UAV do this autonomously, telling the driver to go over towards the target and taking control over the gunner, ...  I personally feel that all these methods are unreliable.

11. Locking onto targets
How you lock onto targets depends on the ordnance you're using I'll discuss the most commonly used ordinance for UAVs.

GBU-12: A laser guided bomb (LOAL).

This ordinance is LOAL, which stands for lock on after launch.  Meaning that you won't see any confirmation that the ordinance is locked on before you launch it and will only know for sure if it locked onto the right laser when it impacts the ground.  So be careful when dropping GBUs in an area where there are multiple lasers active.
To engage a specific laser I recommend following theses steps:

-Communicate with the person who's lasing.  He might not be lasing for you but for vehicle-born laser guided weapons (barrel launched ATGM from the rhino for example)

-To acquire a laser you can either look at it and press T or just press R repeatedly until the right laser has a box around it. 

-Once the laser you want to drop a bomb on has a box around it go into first person view for the pilot of the UAV and zoom out fully (numpad '-' by default) and enable manual fire.

-Now you'll see a little '+' in the HUD.  This is an indication where the bomb would drop if you released it and it didn't find any lasers.  If you don't see this + you can pitch down until you see it.  Alternatively go around and come in for a lower or a faster approach.

-Now get that + close-ish to the square that's around the laser you want to engage.

-Once the - pretty close to the square or inside of it drop the GBU.  If everything goes well the GBU will lock onto the laser you wanted it to lock onto and it'll destroy the target.

AGM: a radar guided missile
This rocket either uses it's own radar guidance or the radar of the platform it was fired from.  To lock onto something simply press R and wait till the diamond appears  then fire away.  The rocket is approximately able to lock 45° off to the left or right and up to 50°-60° downwards.  Keep in mind that the less course corrections it has to do the higher the hit chance.  


Dumbfire rockets:
As the name suggest these rockets are dumb, after launch they will travel in a straight line (they'll drop a bit downwards with distance).  To get these onto target simply get the targets in your crosshairs, adjust for distance and fire away.


12. Self designation
Sometimes people on the ground won't be able to designate a target for you but they do need it take out.  Then you can self designate targets.  This can either be done with 1 platform or 2.
Let's first talk about how to do it with 2 platforms.  Get one of your 2 UAVs over the target area, if it's fixed wing in a loiter if it's a rotor winged in a hover a few hundred meters out.  Take control over the gunner, get the camera on the target, lock the camera in place using (left) ctrl + T, the camera can be locked onto the ground or onto a vehicle.  If it's locked onto a vehicle it'll follow this vehicle wherever it goes as long as it has line of sight. Then activate the laser left mouse button when the laser is selected, it'll show a little star on the HUD when it's activated.  Now take control over the other UAV and go in for the drop.
If you're using a single platform it's a tad more complicated.  Again acquire the target, lock it and lase it like with 2 platforms.  New switch back to the driver, toggle manual fire get some distance and come in for the drop.  
Before dropping you'll have to think about how you're going to fly away.  Cameras can't look everywhere.  For example the camera on the greyhawk is mounted at the front, so if you pull up too hard the body of the UAV will be between the camera and the target.  So after the drop you can't pull up too hard with a greyhawk but you can keep flying straight.  Some UAVs have cameras that cannot turn 360° meaning that shortly after drop you'll have to turn left or right to keep the camera on target.  This is different for every type of UAV.  After you figured out what you should do after dropping your payload you can go in and actually drop it.  After dropping do whatever you had to do to keep the camera on target.


13. known bugs


-My darter keeps spinning in place.  You gave it a specific height?  Yea, arma is arma so that won't work just get it up to the altitude you want it yourself and then give it move waypoints.

-I can't take control over my UAV.  It's most likely still connected to another UAV terminal, either get a zeus to get that UAV to respawn for you or wait until the UAV terminal gets deleted (cleanup script runs every 6-8 minutes).
-My UAV doesn't follow any of my commands.  Yep, arma being itself again, this happens if the server has been up for a long time or if someone else before you controlled that UAV.  Sometimes it'll fix itself after a while other times you'll have to make the UAV respawn.

-I've taken control of my UAV (that is parked at main base or on the carrier) and increased throttle but it doesn't move?  That's some kind of locality issue, just keep increasing the throttle every time it drops back to 0 and you should have control in about 2 minutes.  If not try connecting to a different UAV and then back to the first one again.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions, ... down bellow :) 




For point 3 (available assets) the asset information was partially copied from http://armedassault.wikia.com/wiki/ArmA_3

Both this and this topic by Morten and alganthe were used for information and inspiration.

credits for images in point 3:

greyhawk & sentinel: dev.arma3.com
Falcon image: www.mudspike.com/a3-drone-warfare/

darter & al-6 & stomper: armedassault.wikia.com/



add screenshots

Tweak layout

Edited by Stanhope
Updated GBU guidance
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