Puma LE (Long Endurance) is a next-generation extended-mission unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed and manufactured by AeroVironment.
The new UAS belongs to the Puma AE (All Environment) small UAS product line. Based on the Puma AE, the unmanned aircraft offers improved capabilities, range, and payload capacity.
The Puma LE UAS will offer enhanced imagery required for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) during day and night. It can be operated in both land and maritime environments. The UAS’ advanced features will enable it to provide superior situational awareness and operational effectiveness for the fighters on the battlefield.
The new Puma LE UAS was launched at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference held in October 2019. The company is currently accepting orders and is expected to commence deliveries to its customers in spring 2020.
Design and features of Puma LE UAS
Puma LE has an overall length of 2.2m and a wingspan of 4.6m. It weighs 10.2kg with Mantis i45 payload, while the maximum gross take-off weight (MGTOW) is 11.8kg.
The ultra-lightweight UAS offers unmatched long endurance capabilities, ensuring 100% more time on station when compared to Puma 3. It features an improved digital data link and more frequencies supported by AES-256 bit encryption.
The UAS shares common ground control station (GCS) with Puma, Raven and Wasp AE aerial vehicles. It can be carried in a dual-case mission pack which supports two complete 5.5 hour missions with a single aircraft and ground control system.
The man-portable UAS is launched by a single person by hand. It will also provide additional options for bungee launch and autonomous or manual skid landing based on customer requirements. It requires no additional equipment for recovery.
The UAS is operated in both manual and automated precision skid landing modes which can be supported by light detection and range sensing and reverse thrust technology.
Puma LE will enable the operators to upgrade existing Puma AE family of aircraft as it is compatible with the existing Puma RQ-20B and Puma 3 line replaceable units (LRUs).
Puma LE payload
Puma LE UAS carries AeroVironment’s Mantis i45 gimbaled payload. The gimbal weighs 850gm and has a diameter of 4.2in. The maximum payload capacity of the aircraft is 2.5kg.
The Mantis i45 payload provides seven times more zoom capability and offers an improved range which makes it visually undetectable by the targets.
The payload integrates dual electro-optical (EO) cameras, an infrared (IR) camera, a low-light camera, and an NVG-visible laser illuminator. The aircraft has the capability to carry multi-mission payloads including electronic warfare and RF geolocation or communications relay.
The UAS can also integrate a secondary payload bay with a payload capacity of up to 1.5kg. The secondary payload bay will have a dedicated power supply which provides 8-24v at up to 5amp. It is supported by an Ethernet communication port for payload communications.
Puma LE has a cruise speed of 25k and dash speed of 41k. The flight endurance of the UAS is approximately 5.5 hours. It has a range of 20km which can be extended to more than 60km with the use of long range tracking antenna (LRTA).
The UAS has a maximum launch altitude of 10,000ft and can fly at an altitude of 500ft above ground level (AGL).