US Navy deploys UAS aboard Arleigh Burke destroyer

Unmanned Aircraft Systems manufacturer AeroVironment announced the US Navy has recently tested and deployed the company’s RQ-20B Puma small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) aboard a Flight I Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

According to the company, some of the exercises included the use of AeroVironment’s fully autonomous system to recover the aircraft aboard a ship.

Following completion of a Puma AE intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, a precision recovery system provides for the autonomous on-board recovery of the aircraft, without interrupting the ship’s operations, the company said.

Because the Puma AE is also designed to land and float in water, operators can choose to recover it from the ocean, should mission requirements dictate.

“Our Precision Recovery System expands the capability of Puma AE to support maritime operations.This solution also builds on AeroVironment’s extensive operational experience with small UAS to provide the Navy with a low-cost, hand-launched capability optimized for contested environments,” said Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment.

The UAS features a gimbaled payload that delivers electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) imagery and AeroVironment’s Digital Data Link (DDL). The system occupies a small footprint and can be managed and operated by members of a ship’s crew, as opposed to requiring external contractors.

AeroVironment developed the Puma AE system to compete for, and win, a 2008 United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) competitive program of record and subsequently supplied the system to the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Coastal Riverine Forces, the US Army for convoy and ground troop support and the US Marine Corps.

Most recently, the Navy procured Puma AE systems for use aboard patrol craft and also deployed them aboard a US Navy Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) ship in support of counter illicit trafficking operations in the Caribbean.

The United States Department of Defense recently established the designation RQ-20B for the block 2 Puma AE small UAS. The block 2 Puma AE system includes a more powerful and lighter propulsion system, lighter and stronger airframe, better battery, precision inertial navigation system and an improved user interface.