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The U.S. Navy has tested and deployed the AeroVironment RQ-20B Puma, a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) aboard a Flight I Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, according to the company’s announcement. Following completion of a Puma AE intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, the AeroVironment Precision Recovery System provides for the autonomous on-board recovery of the aircraft, without interrupting the ship’s operations. Because the Puma AE is also designed to land and float in water, operators can choose to recover it from the ocean, should mission requirements dictate.
The AeroVironment Precision Recovery System occupies a small footprint and can be managed and operated by members of a ship’s crew, as opposed to requiring external contractors. It is transported in tactical packaging that can be hand-carried aboard and readily transferred from one ship to another.
Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business department: “Our Precision Recovery System expands the capability of Puma AE to support maritime operations. This solution also builds on AeroVironment’s extensive operational experience with small UAS to provide the Navy with a low-cost, hand-launched capability optimized for contested environments. Puma AE’s ability to operate from a wide variety of surface vessels ensures that our customers will operate more safely, effectively and proceed with certainty.”
According to seapowermagazine.org, the company developed the Puma AE system to compete for, and win, a 2008 U.S. Special Operations Command competitive program of record and subsequently supplied the system to many American forces. Most recently, the Navy procured Puma AE systems for use aboard patrol craft and also deployed them aboard a U.S. Navy expeditionary fast transport ship in support of counter illicit trafficking operations in the Caribbean. The Puma AE is also employed by several international partners.
The Department of Defense recently established the designation RQ-20B for the Block 2 Puma AE small UAS. The Block 2 Puma AE system includes a more powerful and lighter propulsion system, lighter and stronger airframe, long endurance battery, precision inertial navigation system and an improved user interface.
Image: Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc