At AUSA 2019 on 14 October AeroVironment unveiled the PUMA LE, the next-generation follow on to the PUMA All Environment (AE) small unmanned aerial system (UAS).
PUMA LE builds on the combat-proven PUMA AE legacy with new capabilities, increased range and expanded payload capacity. With the integrated MANTIS i45 gimbaled EO/IR sensor and NVG-visible laser illuminator, PUMA LE provides the warfighter with superior imagery for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance during day, night and low-light operations, both on land and in maritime environments.
AeroVironment President and CEO Wahid Nawabi emphasized that one of the major reasons PUMA LE is important to the military community is that it delivers US DoD UAS Group 2 capabilities in a Group 1 footprint. MON readers may recall the Pentagon’s ‘Group’ system has 5 categories, from 1 to 5, with each category increasing in weight and capability.
PUMA LE weighs only 22.5lbs (10.4kg) and is launchable by hand or bungee, making it easy to deploy and recover. On-board batteries provide 5.5 hours of flight endurance, doubling the time on station of PUMA 3 AE – a representative Group 1 UAS. The new PUMA variant has an operational range of 60km (37mi) when used with AeroVironment’s Long-Range Tracking Antenna.
PUMA LE’s economical dual-case mission pack contains everything needed to perform two complete 5.5-hour missions with a single aircraft and Ground Control System (GCS).
The PUMA LE is also within the price point of a Group 1 UAS.
Michael Jorgens, the Product Line Manager for PUMA LE, pointed out “one of the other things we have really focused on with the LE design is the secondary payload bay.” The UAS’s 5.5lbs of total payload capacity is divided between the primary (2.1lbs) and secondary bay (3.4lbs) – permitting the latter ruggedized bay to integrate third-party payloads, with a dedicated power supply providing 18-24 volts at up to 5 amps, and an Ethernet connection port for payload communications. “This capability makes PUMA LE an ideal multi-mission platform, providing the flexibility to incorporate specialized payloads such as electronic warfare, RF emitter geolocation, laser designation, communications relay and others.”
PUMA LE can be operated manually or autonomously with AeroVironment’s GCS. It uses plug and play, interoperable line-replaceable unit (LRU) components that can be shared with other PUMA AE aircraft. This native compatibility reduces training and logistical impact for operators. In addition, current PUMA AE customers can now optimize their fielded systems by purchasing PUMA LE as an add-on aircraft and easily installing PUMA AE LRU components. Multiple PUMA LE system options provide the flexibility for customers to choose the right configuration based on mission requirements.
AeroVironment expects to begin delivery of PUMA LE aircraft in spring 2020.