The US Marine Corps (USMC) has awarded firm fixed-price contract to AeroVironment to supply RQ-20A Puma All Environment (AE) Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS).

The $5.5m modification contract follows the previously awarded US Army contract for the delivery of RQ-14 Dragon Eye, RQ-11B Raven and Wasp small UAS.

AeroVironment Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment senior vice president and general manager Tom Herring said that the Marine Corps was the first military service to formalise the adoption of small unmanned aircraft systems and is the first to adopt four Puma systems, recognising the life-saving value of the capability.

"When time is shortest and risk is highest, small UAS deliver critical information that helps troops do their jobs more safely and effectively," Herring added.

With the procurement of Puma systems, USMC is the first service to adopt four different AeroVironment small UAS.
Featuring three air vehicles and two ground control systems, the 13lb Puma system can fly at a maximum speed of 83km/h and stay airborne for a maximum of two hours using a rechargeable battery.

The third-generation, man-portable and hand-launched UAS has been designed primarily to execute intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.

Using an integrated electro-optical and infrared gimballed video camera, the UAS captures high-resolution imagery or critical videos of the battlefield and transmits it to a ground control station (GCS) through a line of sight datalink while flying at a maximum altitude of 500ft.

Capable of performing a range of operations including battle damage assessment, maritime intervention operations, the UAS can also be configured for conducting visit board search seizure, search and rescue, port and coastal patrolling and drug interdiction missions.
The delivery under the contract is scheduled to take place within two weeks.