Demand for Spy Drones Stretches Army Budget

By Eric Beidel
Soldiers have been clamoring for more unmanned air systems, and they want them to be small.
The Army is seeking funds to procure a family of small unmanned air systems, or UAS, but approval has been delayed due to funding uncertainties, the Army’s requirements chief for unmanned systems Col. Robert Sova said Oct. 11 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition in Washington, D.C.
The family of systems could include an improved hand-launched Raven system, as well as the Puma. The Army already has bought more than 100 of the 13-pound Puma aircraft.
A new Army "capability production document" lays out the need for an unmanned aircraft for small infantry teams. They need a “micro capability,” a 1 to 2-pound UAS, Sova said.
“This is a tough time with funding. We know that the force wants a toolkit for small [UAS], not just the Raven,” he said. “It really is a money issue right now.”
The Army is keeping an eye on the lethal miniature aerial munitions program that seeks to provide special operators with hand- and tube-launched UAS that are outfitted with warheads. These devices, which weigh less than 5 pounds, can loiter while locating a target.
The Army, though, is more interested in a micro-UAS that performs the traditional information gathering and can be re-used multiple times.
“[The LMAMS] is not a system that you want to returning to you,” Sova said. “It’s more of an armament. But there are capabilities out there like it that don’t possess the warhead . . . We certainly like that capability — the smallness, the tube launch, but it’s not something we’re looking at for an unmanned system.”
Regardless, Sova predicted that the Army’s plans to buy a family of small UAS will proceed, despite budget woes.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Topics: Aviation, Defense Department, DOD Budget, Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles

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