Legal Resident Tries To Sell Unmanned Aerial Vehicle On EBay


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Legal Resident Tries To Sell Unmanned Aerial Vehicle On EBay

By Mike Mitchell

March 29, 2011 - A federal grand jury in Tampa returned an indictment charging Henson Chua, 47, of Manilla, Philippines, with violations of the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). 

If convicted on all counts, Chua faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Chua was arrested on a criminal complaint on the evening of February 10 in Los Angeles. 

According to the indictment, Chua knowingly and willfully caused the temporary import into the United States of an item designated as a defense article on the U.S. Munitions List, namely an RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and aided and abetted the attempted export from the United States of the same item, without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization. 

The AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven is a small hand-launched remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (or SUAV) developed for the U.S. military, but now adopted by the military forces of many other countries.

The RQ-11 Raven was originally introduced as the FQM-151 in 1999, but in 2002 developed into its current form. The craft is launched by hand and powered by an electric motor. The plane can fly up to 6.2 miles at up to altitudes of 10,000 feet above ground level (AGL), and 15,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), at flying speeds of 28-60 mph with an effective operational radius of approximately 6.2 miles. 

The Raven RQ-11B UAV system is manufactured by AeroVironment. It was the winner of the US Army's SUAV program in 2005, and went into Full-Rate Production (FRP) in 2006. Shortly afterwards, it was also adopted by USSOCOM, the US Marines, and the US Air Force for their ongoing FPASS Program. It has also been adopted by the military forces of many other countries. More than 13,000 Raven airframes have been delivered to customers worldwide to date. 

The Raven can be either remotely controlled from the ground station or fly completely autonomous missions using GPS waypoint navigation. The UAV can be ordered to immediately return to its launch point simply by pressing a single command button. Standard mission payloads include CCD color video cameras and an infrared night vision camera. A single Raven costs about $35,000 and the total system costs $250,000. The RQ-11B Raven UAV weighs about 4.2 lb.


The RQ-11B Raven UAV is launched by hand, thrown into the air like a free flight model airplane. The Raven lands itself by auto-piloting to a pre-defined landing point and then performing a near-vertical (1 foot down for every 1 foot forward) "Autoland" descent. The UAV can provide day or night aerial intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. 

"ICE HSI is committed to protecting the security of our homeland and our troops abroad by ensuring that the sale and distribution of weapons and military technology is done lawfully, and that these items do not fall into the wrong hands. We make use of our full statutory authority to investigate and enforce criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to military items, controlled 'dual-use' commodities and sanctioned or embargoed countries. Our national security depends on it," ," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa.

Chua is also accused of knowingly bringing an item into the United States contrary to law. According to court documents, Chua initially listed the item for sale on eBay and then engaged in communications with undercover agents from ICE HSI which culminated in the recovery of the item by U.S. officials.

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