AeroVironment gains altitude with Special Ops UAS project

The U.S. Special Operations Command has agreed to buy hand-launched, unmanned aerial systems from AeroVironment Inc. to help provide services that include base security, reconnaissance and battle damage assessment.

Under a contract that could be worth as much as $200 million over five years, the command selected the Puma AE as its All Environment Capable Variant solution to the Small Unmanned Aircraft System program.

The agreement provides for the purchase of aircraft, ground control systems, spares, repairs and training. The initial order is worth $6 million, the company said.

The hand-launched Puma AE lands near-vertically on both land and water and is equipped with a day- and night-capable, waterproof sensor package that provides image tracking, image stabilization and high-image quality.

The system uses the same hand-held ground control unit used by Defense Department and allied military customers to control Raven and Wasp systems. Ship-based use of Puma AE requires no modification to naval vessels, enabling easy integration into maritime operations.

The Puma system provides land and ship-based, over-the-horizon intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said John Grabowsky, AV's executive vice president and general manager of unmanned aircraft systems.

The Army Raven vehicles were flown for about 150,000 combat hours in 2007, according to Army officials.

AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif., designs and builds unmanned aircraft systems and electric energy systems.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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