New Small UAS, Aerovironment Puma LE

Puma LE (long endurance) unmanned aircraft. Photo from Aerovironment

Seapower Magazine reports an improvement to a system the Coast Guard has done some experimentation with from a 65 foot tug (and here from Healey). The Canadians have purchased the earlier version for their 181 foot Kingston class Coastal Defense Ships.

The technology seems to be headed in the right direction, with smaller and smaller drones capable of doing more and more, but I still think, for now at least, patrol vessels need something faster with a larger payload, like the Scan Eagle we are getting for the Bertholf class NSCs and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutters, preferably including radar or vidar. Vessels as small as WPBs could use them, although it is a bit of stretch right now. Something like this might be useful to provide over-watch during boardings, but I don’t think it is the search asset patrol vessels need. Smaller vessels that operate closer to shore, e.g. motor surf boats or response boats, could be supported by UAS operated from their shore station. A UAS like this might be useful to provide relatively close recon for icebreakers looking for leads, both polar and domestic.

This new version, the Puma LE, (specs here) at 22.5 to 26 pounds with its 15 foot span and 7 foot length, would be difficult to hand launch from a rolling deck, but a bungee launch would be simple and easy. With a cruise speed of only 25 knots and a dash speed of 41 knots, it might find wind conditions at sea a bit challenging. I presume recovery is still by either landing on deck or landing in the water. Something similar to the Scan Eagles recovery system might be a significant improvement, although the ability to survive a water landing is certainly an asset.

For comparison, Scan Eagle has a shorter span, 10.2′ vs 15; is faster, 60 knot cruise vs 25; has a greater payload, 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) vs 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg); has a higher max take off weight, 48.5 lb (22 kg) vs 26 lb (11.8 kg); and has much greater endurance, 24 hours vs 5.5 hours.

3 thoughts on “New Small UAS, Aerovironment Puma LE

  1. Looking at the photo at the top of the post, if he were standing at the bow of a boat with a 20 knot relative wind, that 15 foot wing span would lift the plane right out of his hand. He would not have been able to hold it. Maybe a successful launch, but just as likely a lose of control before it got to flying speed.

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