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AeroVironment has unveiled a block upgrade including new features and capabilities to the RQ-20A Puma All Environment (AE) small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS).

Scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2014, the enhanced Puma AE features an extended flight duration to support longer missions, a more powerful and efficient propulsion system as well as increased mission flexibility.

Designed for land-based and maritime operations, the Puma AE can conduct missions including: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition (ISRT), battle damage assessment, maritime patrol, search and rescue and drug interdiction missions over water or land.

AeroVironment’s senior vice-president Roy Minson said the enhanced Puma will provide above and beyond what is expected from a Tier I UAS.

"Puma has proven itself a valuable tool to military and other government agencies, and with its recent type-certification by the Federal Aviation Administration, will soon help more domestic customers perform important jobs more safely and effectively," Minson said.

"It will soon help more domestic customers perform important jobs more safely and effectively."

Upgrades to the SUAS include an advanced propulsion system to provide a 75% improvement over the current Puma AE, as well as longer endurance smart battery technology to offer more than three and a half hours of flight duration.

Versatile smart battery options as well as ability to integrate advanced power sources in the future, including as solar and fuel cells are also provided for additional mission flexibility.

Additional enhancements include the auxiliary payload bay, designed to provide the ability to integrate advanced payloads quickly and easily, while retaining the unmanned system’s colour and thermal video camera capability.

The man-portable and hand-launched SUAS is also upgraded with precision navigation system with secondary GPS to offer greater positional accuracy and reliability as well as redesigned fuselage; its reinforced construction has improved aerodynamic properties and durability.

The company has introduced the block upgrade at the ongoing annual meeting and exposition of the association of the US Army (AUSA) exhibition, being held in Washington, US.

Image: US marine launches the Puma unmanned aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough.

Defence Technology