AeroVironment, Inc., a specialist in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for both defense and commercial applications, and ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH, a system and software house in Germany for development and service, recently announced that the German Navy has acquired the AeroVironment Puma™ maritime unmanned aircraft system. The Puma systems will include the Mantis i45 sensor and pocket Remote Video Terminal (p/RVT). AeroVironment partnered with ESG to satisfy the requirement of the Bundesamt fur Ausrustung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) for an urgent operational requirement.
AeroVironment originally developed the Puma system to win a 2008 United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) competitive program of record and subsequently supplied the system to the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Coastal Riverine Forces, the U.S. Army for convoy and ground troop support and the U.S. Marine Corps. Capable of both ground and water landings, Puma AE's innovative fuselage provides an operational flexibility never before available in the small UAS class.
Equipped with both an electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) camera and illuminator, Puma AE keeps the operator's “eyes on target” while the precision navigation system with secondary GPS insures positional accuracy up to its 20 km range. The Mantis i45 gimbal is backward compatible, fully waterproof and provides nighttime and low light capabilities ranging from Near-Infrared (NIR) to Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) imagery. During flight operations, the i45 gimbal provides full lower hemisphere coverage, continuous pan and is packaged to provide reliable operation in extreme environments.
An optional under-wing transit bay easily integrates third-party payloads such as communication relay, geo-location, or laser marker. Operated from AeroVironment's battle-proven ground control station (GCS), the GCS allows the operator to control the aircraft manually or program it for GPS-based autonomous navigation. Puma AE can deliver 3.5+ hours of flight endurance while versatile smart battery options support diverse mission requirements. A plug-and-play power adapter also makes for easy integration of extended endurance options such as solar wings.
The Navy procured Puma AE systems for use aboard Patrol Craft and also deployed them on a U.S. Navy Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) ship in support of counter organized crime operations in the Caribbean. The Puma system is also being deployed by multiple international partners. German Navy adoption of the Puma system marks another step in the growing need for and fielding of UAS for the international surface combatant and coastal craft market.
The United States Department of Defense 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. The all-environment Mantis i45 gimbal sensor suite for Puma AE delivers a dramatic leap in small UAS image resolution and ISR capability.
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