AeroVironment has secured a new contract to continue and expand the US Navy’s Blackwing small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) programme.
The $2.5m contract was awarded on a sole-source basis by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport (NUWCDIVNPT) and includes orders for multiple Blackwing vehicles, sensor payloads and refurbishment kits.
The company is currently the only manufacturer of the Blackwing UAV system.
AeroVironment UAS Business Segment vice-president and general manager Kirk Flittie said: “Since first being deployed just a few months ago, Blackwing has delivered valuable new capabilities to US naval undersea warfare units.
“This contract is consistent with the navy’s plans to resupply existing vessels and equip additional submarines with the Blackwing capability.”
Blackwing is a small, tube-launched automated aircraft that features an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO / IR) payload, integrated inertial / global positioning system (GPS) autopilot system and secure digital data link (DDL).
The vehicle can be launched from under the sea’s surface from manned submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
It can also be integrated with, and deployed from, various surface vessels and mobile ground vehicles to offer rapid response reconnaissance capabilities, which will enable warfighters to face challenges and complete missions more safely and successfully.
The Blackwing programme provides the US Navy with a low-cost, submarine-launched UAS optimised for use within denied environments.
The initial set of UAVs is expected to be delivered by May 2018, while final delivery is anticipated by November the same year.