Hand-Launched Military Drone Getting New Payload Kit for Even More Spying Power

One of the biggest names in the world of military hand-launched drones is without a doubt AeroVironment. The American company is responsible for making a diverse range of such machines, including the Puma and Raven, and spares no expense in keeping them relevant on the battlefield.
Puma AE RQ-20B drone 7 photos
Photo: AeroVironment
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The latest move in keeping the very large fleet of such drones in the air for as long as possible is the introduction of a standardized modular payload interface kit for the Puma AE RQ-20B. This new piece of hardware, which comprises all the mechanical and electrical interfaces needed for integration with the drone, will allow it to be fitted with a larger range of payloads, regardless of whether they were made with the RQ-20B in mind or not.

As is, the Puma comes with a gimbaled payload that contains an infrared camera and illuminator, capable of 360 degrees continuous pan and +10 to -90 degrees tilt. Neither of the parties involved in the arrival of the new payload kit (AeroVironment and the U.S. Special Operations Command) said anything about what new payloads could be used on the drone.

The Puma AE RQ-20B is one of those small spying machines the enemy is not expecting and almost never sees coming. AE stands for All Environment, and it is the perfect description for this winged machine that is fully waterproof, and can land in the water or on the ground.

After being launched by hand or from a special rail, the drone can travel for as much as 20 km (12.4 miles) on a single outing, or for in excess of three hours. Its speed is rated at anywhere between 47 and 83 kph (29 to 51 mph), depending on conditions.

AeroVironment said this week it should begin delivering the new payload kits for the existing AE drones in November this year.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows the AeroVironment Puma 3 drone.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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