Unmanned system’s water landing capability expands operational utility
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
below zero Fahrenheit and in rain of
one-quarter inch per hour. The UAV
is hand-launched and recovered
either autonomously or manually via
a deep stall, Rector said.
“All of our small unmanned aircraft systems are designed to land
on the ground,” said Steve Gitlin, a
spokesman for AeroVironment.
“They’re modular aircraft designed
to absorb the energy of impact by
disassembling themselves. They’re
transported unassembled, they’re
assembled on the ground and
launched by hand. They land using
a vertical landing technique that allows them to be
operated from a very small area, like a rooftop or a
clearing or even on a vehicle or boat. That vertical
landing provides a great deal of flexibility with respect
to where they can operate the system.”
After water landings, the PUMA AE “can float for
quite some time and be picked up and rinsed off,”
Gitlin said. “We can change the battery out and send
them right back out again.”
For maritime operations, including riverine, the
PUMA AE can be used to observe “craft approaching a
naval vessel when [the ship wants] to get a bird’s-eye
view of who’s on [it], what are they doing, friend or foe
type of a thing,” Gitlin said.
“The PUMA can be unpacked and in the air in five
minutes or less. In addition to being able to land in sea
water or fresh water, the PUMA’s operation does not
require any modification to the naval vessel. No
launching devices [or] catching devices need to be
attached. A user or operator simply launches it by
hand and it can land either next to the ship or on a relatively small, flat area of the ship,” he said.
The PUMA AE carries an electro-optical (EO) camera and an infrared (IR) camera, as well as an IR illuminator. The sensors are modular and mechanically
The AeroVironment PUMA AE gives operating forces an all-weather, water-recoverable unmanned aerial system for rapid-response surveillance.
■ The RQ- 20 recently was deployed by the Marine Corps and is
used by Navy Riverine forces.
■ The hand-launched, waterproof UAV can land on water and be
quickly sent aloft again.
■ No heavy launch and recovery systems are needed.
Not being a program of record, the RQ-20A surveillance unmanned aerial system (UAS) has not attracted the attention garnered by
other UASs in naval service, but its capabilities have
made it a staple of the Navy’s coastal Riverine forces,
the Marine Corps and other armed services.
The RQ- 20’s ability to be recovered on the surface of
the water makes it operationally desirable in environments where other small unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) would be unusable or expendable.
The RQ-20A, built by AeroVironment of Monrovia,
Calif., and also known as the PUMA AE (Pointer Upgraded Mission Ability — All Environment), is a ma-rinized development of the Pointer UAV that was first
flown in 1986.
“The PUMA AE is a lightweight, hand-launched, fully
waterproof UAS which provides over 120 minutes of
autonomous airborne intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance (ISR) capability at line-of-sight ranges up
to 15 kilometers,” said Marine Col. Jim Rector, the Navy
and Marine Corps’ Small Tactical UAS program manager.
The RQ-20A is carried aloft by a battery-powered pusher propeller. The UAV has a wing span of 9. 2 feet and
weighs 18 pounds. It can operate at a maximum altitude
of 10,000 feet. It can operate in temperatures of 20 degrees