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Robots in the Sky

AeroVironment’s Burgeoning Tactical UAS Product Ecosystem

You really do need an increasingly complex scorecard to track developments at AeroVironment.

The company continues to enhance its Snipe and other legacy products, and expand the mission sets against which its systems can help defeat. At the same time, AeroVironment plans to unveil new UAS products at 2018 AUSA. David Sharpin, the company’s Vice President of its Tactical UAS Business, provided MONCh a “quick look” of the company’s business activities through the end of 2018.      

One recent company product on the author’s watch list is the SNIPE Nano UAS, the latest tactical unmanned aircraft system (UAS) innovation that provides defenders with critical information, whenever and wherever it is needed. Unveiled about one year ago, AeroVironment continues to accept and gain feedback from current and prospective customers to incrementally upgrade the technology baseline, with the product approaching a “SNIPE 2” maturation level. “We’re doing a lot of demos for international customers. While we have our first paying customer we’re also really trying to get it out there,” Mr. Sharpin said.

AeroVironment’s PUMA 3 small unmanned aircraft system also continues to deliberately evolve. The PUMA’s airframe has been upgraded to allow robust operation of its i45 EO/IR sensor suite with SIGINT payloads in harsh and demanding environments. In addition, the PUMA 3 incorporates AeroVironment’s latest digital data link with security upgrades to support operation in more challenging radio frequency environments, with M1/M2/M5 and M3/M4/M6 frequency bands and with AES-256 encryption. AeroVironment’s marketing strategy for the remainder of 2018, includes featuring PUMA 3 at this October’s 2018 AUSA.

This April AeroVironment announced the successful maritime demonstration of a PUMA-SwitchBlade automated sensor-to-shooter (S2S) capability from a US Navy Coastal Riverine Craft for increased mission autonomy to counter threats – fast attack boats in that event. Mr. Sharpin recalled, “That was using PUMA as an ISR and targeting asset and then coming in with the SwitchNlade lethal loitering missile – that was a pretty powerful combination.”

SHRIKE 2, a hybrid VTOL, continues to rapidly evolve to gain a short-range reconnaissance capability. Teaming with FlightWave Aerospace Systems, AeroVironment is making the Shrike “configurable” – able to fly with its wings on or off, to meet mission requirements. The AeroVironment executive added, “The payloads are all removable from the front, you can twist them on or off. We think this can be a ‘game changer’ in terms of its capabilities. Many of our customers want VTOL and we want to offer that in our family of systems.” A rigorous internal testing and evaluation regime to advance SHRIKE 2 is planned for this summer, along with demonstrations for prospective customers. AeroVironment plans to provide additional details on the SHRIKE 2 programme at 2018 AUSA.

Marty Kauchak

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