RQ-20A Puma

AeroVironment has received a series of contracts from the US Army for sustainment of RQ-11B Raven and RQ-20A Puma all environment (AE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Valued at a combined $47.1m, the contracts include seven orders awarded on 23 July totalling $35.1m.

AeroVironment UAS business segment vice-president and general manager Kirk Flittie said: "Sustaining the army’s large fleet of Raven and Puma AE systems ensures that soldiers continue to have the most effective, reliable and adaptable small UAS available to support them wherever and whenever required.

"These contracts assure that American soldiers can continue to rely on our combat-proven solutions to deliver powerful insight, on-demand, that helps them operate more safely and effectively."

Comprising three aircraft, two ground control stations, and spares, the backpackable, hand-launched sensor platform is designed to provide aerial observation, day or night, at line-of-sight ranges up to nearly 10km.

Operated manually or programmed for autonomous operation, the drone is available with an optional stabilised gimballed payload, and delivers real-time colour or infrared imagery to ground control and remote viewing stations.

The 13lb Puma AE is a third-generation, portable and hand-launched small UAS and is designed primarily to conduct intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions.

"These contracts assure that American soldiers can continue to rely on our combat-proven solutions."

Equipped with three air vehicles and two ground control systems, the system can also be configured to perform battle damage assessment, maritime intervention operations, visit board search seizure, search and rescue, port and coastal patrolling, as well as drug interdiction missions.

In addition, the US Army has added a new payload to Raven R-11B UAS, in an effort to improve reconnaissance capabilities of the system.

Dubbed the Raven, the payload is a small, hand-launched reconnaissance and surveillance tool, which replaces the UAS’ previous camera system with a single, front mounted lens.

Gilbert Reyna, 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 6th Squadron ‘Saber’ Comanche Troop cavalry scout specialist said: "With the new payload, you can now simply rotate the camera 360° in a matter of seconds."

Image: A US soldier launches RQ-20A Puma UAS at Patrol Base Boldak, Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of Sgt. Bobby Yarbrough.