The Puma 3 Kevlar airframe is designed to absorb the impact of a deep stall landing without damage to the sensors or the rest of the aircraft (Image source: AeroVironment, Inc.).

AeroVironment releases new Puma 3

The new UAS is upgraded for operation in more challenging radio frequency environments

Last month, AeroVironment, Inc. began accepting orders for their new Puma 3 unmanned aerial system (UAS). The company, which also manufacturers UASs for commercial applications, developed the Puma 3 with input from military customers. With that said, the Puma 3 is designed for ease of operation in austere environments.

The aircraft is a hand-launched UAS with a wingspan of 9.2 ft., a length of 4.6 ft. and weighs 14 lbs. It utilizes an electrically-powered puller prop and had an endurance of more than 3.5 hours—typically operating at an altitude of about 500 feet. The structure is principally comprised of a Kevlar-based composite. It is able to be unpacked and launched within 5 minutes.

As an “all environment” UAS, Pumas have operated effectively in some of the harshest climates on Earth. An extreme example, the US Coast Guard has used the Puma for charting Antarctic ice.  

“We are in constant communication with our customers to ensure they have the most innovative and advanced small drones to successfully complete their missions. As a result of their feedback, the new Puma 3 includes air vehicle upgrades for operation in even more rugged environments than before, improved ability to support advanced third-party payloads and software applications and reliability in challenging electronic warfare/cyber environments where interference is prevalent,” said David Sharpin, vice president of AeroVironment’s Tactical UAS business.

AeroVironment upgraded the Puma’s airframe to enable robust operation of its i45 Electro-Optical/Infrared sensor suite with signal intelligence payloads in harsh and demanding environments. The airframe is designed to absorb the impact of a deep stall landing without damage to the sensors or the rest of the aircraft.

In addition, the Puma 3 incorporates AeroVironment’s latest digital data link (DDL) with security upgrades to support operation in more challenging radio frequency (RF) environments, with M1/M2/M5 and M3/M4/M6 frequency bands and with AES-256 (256-bit key) encryption. Such RF challenges include hostile jamming and spoofing. The 850-gram i45 sensor suite is mounted on a gimbal consisting of dual 15-megapixel high-resolution cameras (for wide and narrow views), a LWIR camera, a 1.2-megapixel low light camera and a high-power 860-nm laser illuminator. The camera imaging range has been improved by a factor of seven over the previous sensor suite carried by the Puma. This improvement allows the inherently quiet Puma 3 to stand-off and observe from a distance where it is essentially undetectable.

Sharpin said that, as part of ongoing efforts to stay at the forefront of battery technology, AeroVironment is releasing a new Puma smart battery that is more efficient and includes safety enhancements. AeroVironment also has optimized the portability of Puma from six transport cases to four, with a flyable configuration in a single transport case that features luggage-type handles. All these upgrades are incorporated while maintaining Puma 3’s all-environment capability.

The Puma 3 along with the RQ-11B Raven and RQ-12 Wasp, make up AeroVironment’s small UAS line. Operating with a common ground control system (GCS), this family of systems provides increased capability to the warfighter that can give commanders the option of selecting the appropriate aircraft based on the type of mission to be performed. This increased capability has the potential to provide significant force protection and force multiplication benefits to small tactical units, fixed installations, naval vessels and security personnel.

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