The US Navy and Marine Corps are tapping industry for an all-environment small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) that weighs less than 13.6kg (30lb) but can fly for 8h, carrying both day and night video cameras.
Such a SUAS would represent a significant boost in capability over comparably sized Group 1 unmanned aircraft currently in service with the military, such as the hand-thrown Aerovironment RQ-11B Raven and RQ-20A Puma.
“Most of the Group 1 SUAS’s only fly less than 2h and not all of them are all-environment,” says Marcia Hart, a spokeswoman for the navy’s tactical aircraft programmes office.
The request for information (RFI), released by the Group 1 team of the Navy and Marine Corps small tactical unmanned aircraft systems programme office (PMA-263), also specifies that proposed aircraft be easy to launch and recover.
“The recovery method must be adequate to prevent system damage and allow for short turn-around times between same day missions,“ the RFI states, with the added proviso that the SUAS be rugged enough to survive landing on rough terrain.
So far, small unmanned aircraft manufacturers are keeping tight-lipped about the RFI, which has set a November 29 due date for responses.
Stephen Greene, vice-president for marketing and communications at Textron Systems, would only say that the company is evaluating the request, while a spokesman for Aerovironment says it does not comment on such matters.