AAI unveils Aersonde Mark 4.7 for STUAS/Tier II bid

Washington DC
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AAI has unveiled the Aeronsonde Mark 4.7 as its offer for the US Navy and Marine Corps' small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS)/Tier II programme.

The latest version of the Aerosonde family becomes the fourth known candidate for the contract, for which between six and eight bids have been predicted by a USN official.

The Aerosonde joins a field that includes the Boeing/Insitu Integrator, General Dynamics/Elbit Systems (UAS Dynamics) Hermes 90 and Raytheon/Swift Engineering KillerBee-4.

Unveiled in Australia in March, the Aerosonde Mk 4.7 reuses the engine and avionics from the company's Mk 4.4 design, but integrates a larger wing and fuselage.

AAI at that time advertised the new version as having an endurance greater than 12h, but has since revised this to over 10h. The system is designed to incorporate new payloads "with little to no aircraft or system modifications", AAI adds.

The Aerosonde Mk 4.7 participated in mandatory flight demonstrations for the STUAS/Tier II source selection process from 23-24 June at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

The Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle has been filling the role of a STUAS/Tier II-class UAS since 2004 under a lease agreement. The US Air Force has also pledged to join the new programme in the future.

The services are initially seeking a long-endurance surveillance and communications relay system for low-altitude missions, but their requirements could expand to include strike applications using miniature munitions.