Warplanes: Puma Catching Up With Raven

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April 26, 2011: The U.S. Army is trying to find micro-UAVs that are more effective than current models, and just as easy to use. Recent field tests for the larger Puma, a 5.9 kg (13 pound) UAV with a 2.6 meter (8.5 feet) wingspan and a range of 15 kilometers from the operator, resulted in SOCOM (Special Operations Command)  ordering over a hundred systems (each with three UAVs and two controllers). All of these will be delivered this year. Larger orders from the army are expected as well, along with more from SOCOM. 

Top speed for Puma is 87 kilometers an hour, and cruising speed is 37-50 kilometers an hour. Max altitude is 3,800 meters (12,500 feet), and the UAV can stay in the air for two hours at a time. Puma has a better vidcam (providing tilt, pan and zoom) than the smaller Raven, and that provides steadier and more detailed pictures. Because it is larger than Raven, and three times as heavy, Puma is much steadier in bad weather.

Puma has been around for a decade, but never got purchased in large quantities by anyone. The latest model uses much proven tech from the Raven (both UAVs are made by the same company). Like the Raven, Puma is hand launched, and can be quickly snapped together, or apart. A version, using a fuel cell has been tested, and was able to stay in the air for nine hours at a time. There is also a naval version, built to withstand all that exposure to salt water.

The army has bought thousands of the 2 kg (4.4 pound) Raven, but it is mostly used for convoy and base security, and less so by troops in the field. Each combat brigade currently has at least 17 Ravens, but the army wants to increase this to 49 small UAVs, including Puma, and perhaps another model as well.

 

 


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