Aerovironment could deliver hundreds of small unmanned aircraft systems that can operate in land and maritime environments under a new contract with the US Special Operations Command.

An initial $6 million award buys less than 20 Puma AE systems, but the contract has four one-year options with a maximum value of $200 million.

The SOCOM contract is the first programme of record for the Puma UAS the sixth hand-launched Aerovironment vehicle to make its debut. It will also become the fourth Aerovironment system to enter operational service with the US military, following the Dragon Eye, Raven and Wasp designs. Indeed, the company claims that it has so far won all four US military contracts for a small UAS that were decided by competitions.

The SOCOM version of the Puma AE is unique because it has been adapted to operate as a surveillance system that can be launched by hand either from the ground or a ship's deck. The aircraft can land and be recovered in the water, with a waterproof sensor package that includes a gimballed electro-optical/infrared camera.

The air vehicle can be controlled via a communications link out to 15km (8nm) and has a flight endurance of 2h.

The Puma AE shares the same ground control station as the smaller Raven and Wasp UAS.

Source: Flight International