A new shadow casts over the Torres Strait, but it can’t be seen from the ground.

For the first time 20th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery deployed its Shadow tactical unmanned aerial system (UAS) on a domestic operation to provide maritime surveillance for Joint Task Force 639 on Operation Resolute.

Deployed to Bamaga in Far North Queensland since early June, the 50-strong task unit, raised from 132 Bty, is supporting Maritime Border Command until later in the year.

Task Unit Battery Commander Major Dan Evangelisti said the team had hit the ground running. 

“The team have taken to it quickly, like a duck to water,” Major Evangelisti said. 

“We’re employed in support of a whole-of-government, maritime-led, Joint Task Force and as a sub-unit, it’s provided us with plenty of challenges as this is the first time we’ve been employed in this role.”

The team comprises Army and RAAF personnel including imagery analysts, cooks, signallers, maintenance staff, and UAS operators. 

A mobile air operations team provides air traffic control for the Shadow’s airspace. 

“The task unit personnel are extremely humbled to be deploying on a domestic operation, many for the first time in their careers,” Task Unit Battery Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class 2 Geoffrey Bruhn said

Along with other Army elements from the Regional Force Surveillance Units, they’re supporting personnel from the Queensland Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Major Evangelisti said Border Command were happy to have them. 

“We’ve achieved some good surveillance outcomes, but we’ve also achieved some good community outcomes,” Major Evangelisti said.

“By showing the people of the Torres Straits that our capability is out here, we’re showing them how we contribute to protecting them from criminal elements and the prospect of COVID-19 vectors from overseas.

“Other government agencies and law enforcement personnel also support of our presence here because it’s something new and interesting, but it’s also the future.

“They’re looking at the shadow system and our operations, saying ‘we want that in support of us’, which is exciting.”