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Pentagon awards AeroVironment $3.2 million Puma AE drone contract for US Indo-Pacific ally

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded AeroVironment a $3.2 million contract to supply and support its Puma AE small unmanned aircraft system for a U.S. ally, the company said in a Tuesday, November 6 release.

The $3,228,856 firm-fixed-price contract awarded on September 14 will see AeroVironment “provide RQ-20B Puma AE II small unmanned aircraft systems, training and support to an allied nation in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) area of responsibility,” the release said.

Delivery is anticipated by March 30, 2019.

Deploying the RQ-20 Puma UAV in Afghanistan
Sgt. Brandon Hart throws an RQ-20 Puma UAV into the air to allow the platoon pilot to practice flying outside the joint combat outpost in Baghlan province, Afghanistan on August 1, 2013. Image: US. Army/1st Lt. Cory Titus

The Puma AE (All Environment) is a small unmanned aircraft system designed for land and maritime operations. Its primary mission is surveillance and intelligence gathering. It is equipped with both electro-optical and infrared cameras and an infrared illuminator on a 360 degree gimbal mount, while an under-wing bay allows for additional payloads including communications relay and laser marker systems.

Each man-portable system comprises three air vehicles and two ground stations and can be launched by hand or by a rail system, and the Puma is capable of landing on water or land.

RQ-20 Puma UAV flying, Afghanistan
Lance Cpl. Nathan Bush, Lenox, MA and Sarasota, FL native, uses the hand controller of the RQ-20 Puma drone to fly a surveillance mission at Patrol Base Boldak, Afghanistan March 2, 2013. Image: Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

The Puma uses a precision inertial navigation system complemented by GPS. The ground control station allows manual control and programmable GPS-based autonomous navigation.

The company’s UAS use a “Family of Systems” concept, enabling other AeroVironment drones to be flown using the same ground control station and software. The concept easily allow interoperability across NATO forces. The Puma GCS can also be used with Raven and Wasp drones.

AeroVironment says it has sold the system to more than 45 customers internationally.

In September, AeroVironment was awarded an almost $9 million contract to provide RQ-20B Puma AE II systems and support to Estonia, with an estimated completion date of March 24, 2019.

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