The Army wants to outfit each platoon-sized unit with a hand-held and easily operated drone weighing between 2 and 15 pounds, a senior adviser at the Training and Doctrine Command told Aviation Week. The systems would be battery powered for easy maintenance and operation, and capable of launch without rails or bungee cords.
Lt. Col. James Cutting, Aviation UAS director in the Army’s operations office, is calling on industry to help make what he called a “pair of flying binoculars,” a reality. But it’s really not just one pair for everyone, but rather a series of different drones, phased in over time, said Tim Owings, an Army acquisition executive for drones.
While AW reports these systems would replace the Raven, it doesn’t look like the Raven is going to disappear in the near future. The Army invested in 339 kits to upgrade the communication systems on more than 300 Raven drones from analog to digital.
We recently reported the Army’s G-3 office wants to meet the “insatiable” demand for UAVs by increasing the number of Raven unmanned aircraft in brigade combat teams from 15 to 35, which probably means shifting Ravens from non-deployed units to Afghanistan, said Max Mitchell, deputy program manager for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
The service is working to fill another urgent needs statement by sending Pumas, another hand-launched UAV, to Afghanistan by April. So far, 29 have been delivered; 43 more are slated to arrive by April. Training is to start Dec. 20.
The 13-pound Puma has a flight endurance of two hours and features a gimbaled payload. It also uses the same remote video terminal as the Raven.
In line with what Owings’ told AW, a “family” of three aircraft have been fielded: Raven, Puma and 430-gram Wasp.[via Aviation Week and Associated Press]