REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The Ukraine armed forces needed a hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance. They found their solution in the RQ-20 Puma AE (all-environment) from AeroVironment Inc. in Simi Valley, Calif.
Officials of the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., announced a $19.7 million contract to AeroVironment last week for RQ-20 Puma AE systems; reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition kits; spare parts; logistics and training support the country of Ukraine.
The Puma AE is a small UAV designed for land-based and maritime operations. Capable of landing in the water or on land, the Puma AE is durable with a reinforced fuselage construction, human-portable, and requires no auxiliary equipment for launch or recovery.
It carries an electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) camera and illuminator on a mechanical gimbaled payload, which enables the operator to keep his eyes on the target.
The system is quiet to avoid detection and operates autonomously, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting data (ISRT). The Puma AE delivers more than 3.5 hours of flight endurance, with smart battery options. It is easy to launch, especially at high altitudes and in hot climates.
For increased payload capacity, an optional under-wing transit bay is available for integration of third-party payloads like communications relays, geo locations, or laser markers. The Puma AE can perform battle damage assessment, maritime patrol, search and rescue, and drug interdiction missions. U.S. forces have used the Puma AE in Afghanistan. The US Air Force and Marine Corps also ordered Puma AE systems through an existing US Army contract.
The Puma AE is not the most sophisticated model of the AeroVironment RQ-20. The Puma LE (long-endurance) UAV, for example, also is launchable by hand or by bungee, and provides flight endurance of as long as 6.5 hours, and provides an operational range of 37.3 miles over land and water when used with the AeroVironment long-range tracking antenna.
In addition to Ukraine, international militaries using the Puma AE are Albania; Belgium; Canada; Czech Republic; Denmark; Egypt; Estonia; France; Germany; Latvia; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Kosovo; Spain; Sweden; and the United Kingdom.