AeroVironment has made design improvements that extend the endurance of its RQ-20A Puma AE unmanned air vehicle by 75%, to 3.5h.

The Tier I UAV, which previously had an endurance of 2h, now has a more efficient propulsion system with higher-energy-density batteries, the company told Flightglobal at the Association of the United States Army’s 2013 annual conference in Washington, DC.

Puma is a waterproof UAV used by the US Army and US Marine Corps. It can be assembled in minutes, is launched by hand and can land on water.

Puma AE - AeroVironment


The battery improvements added 0.45kg (1lb) of weight to the aircraft, but engineers made aerodynamic improvements and reduced weight in other areas, says the Monrovia, California-based company.

The Puma now weighs 6.1kg, up from 5.9kg, has a speed of 20-45kt (37-83km/h) and range of 8.1nm (15km).

The latest version with the improved powerplant will be available in the first quarter of 2014, the company says.

Puma received a type certificate rating from the US Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year. The “restricted category” rating allows US operators to fly the UAV for commercial missions in areas of Alaska, where the aircraft are used by oil companies.

Government agencies may also obtain a certificate of authority to operate Puma. AeroVironment’s current government customers include the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and some law enforcement agencies, the company says.