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Army Plans to Buy New Small Drone 


By Valerie Insinna 

The Army wants to procure a new small unmanned aircraft which will be packaged as a kit along with the RQ-20 Puma and RQ-11 Raven.

The short-range micro unmanned aerial system will be a part of the Army’s family of small UAS, said product manager Lt. Col. Nick Kioutas.

“We don’t know what the short-range micro ... is going to look like, but it’s probably some sort of a quadcopter,” he said. “The soldier can take that out and land it somewhere and continue to get video feeds. We call it perch-and-stare capability.”

Army officials in November signed a capability production document for a kit of small drones called the rucksack-portable unmanned aircraft system. Along with the short-range micro aircraft, this family of UAS would include the long-range reconnaissance surveillance system and medium-range mobile system. The Army has no immediate plans to buy new aircraft to perform those roles. Instead, the kit will include AeroVironment’s Puma and Raven, respectively.

While some units operate both Pumas and Ravens, the aircraft have never been part of a common kit, Kioutas said. The idea is that a unit would have a mixture of all three systems, and soldiers would be able to choose what UAS to bring along during a mission.

“The soldier goes in that kit and says, ‘Right now, I need something that does this longer endurance’ … or on another occasion he might say, ‘Okay, I might need something that’s a little smaller. I’m going to be carrying it’” farther, he said.

Procurement of the short-range micro version could be affected by budgetary constraints. So far, there has been no funding allocated for a competition, Kioutas said.

“They’re telling us to go ahead and start putting unfunded requests in for the next POM [program objective memorandum], which would be 2017 to 2021,” he said.

The Army has a requirement for 1,213 long-range reconnaissance surveillance systems, but the service’s current inventory of Pumas only fills about half of that, Kioutas said.

The Army could buy more Pumas to fill that requirement. However, the service is currently working on software called tactical open government architecture, or TOGA, that would be able to fly any UAS regardless of manufacturer.

“If we can get this TOGA in place, that would allow us to go procure anything that’s competitive for that requirement,” he said. In that case, the service wouldn’t necessarily need to order additional Pumas.

Credit: An RQ-11 Raven is launched (Defense Dept. photo)

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