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Puma: The Tiny Drone That Ukraine Could Use to Strike Russia

Puma Drone
Puma Drone. Image Credit: AeroVironment.

Puma Drone: AeroVironment Developing Hand-Launched Drone for Ukraine Fighters  – AeroVironment, the U.S. defense contractor that manufacturers the Switchblade drones used by Ukrainian forces against invading Russian troops, won a $20 million contract to develop a new hand-launched drone that will be delivered to Ukrainian soldiers.

The Department of Defense announced the first contract of the new Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative’s $300 million budget for the year, which takes the form of a $19.7 million deal with AeroVironment. The weapons manufacturer will be tasked with developing a new surveillance drone, designed to be launched by hand, that will be called the RQ-20 Puma AE and delivered to Ukraine.

The deal was agreed on April 12, only days after the department announced that it would be working with AeroVironment to develop new equipment destined for Ukraine. Unlike previous aid packages sent by the White House, which utilized pre-existing American military hardware and supplies, the new deal will see AeroVironment building an entirely new drone based on its Puma line of unmanned aerial vehicles.

A senior official from the Pentagon confirmed the new contract on Wednesday and said that work is due to be complete by May 30.

What is the Puma Drone?

AeroVironment’s Puma drones are designed to be launched by hand, allowing users to surveil areas from kilometers away.

The existing Puma LE drone is an ultra-lightweight aircraft designed to be launched by hand or bungee. It can fly for 6.5 hours and has an operational range of 60km over land and water.

The drone has a 5.5lb total payload capacity and is designed to be lightweight enough to travel with.

The Puma 3 AE is the third generation of Puma drones designed with an optional under-wing transit bay for secondary payloads and other third-party applications. The drone can be used for surveillance day and night, and in low light operations. It is also designed to be launched by hand, bungee, rail, or vehicle.

The 3 AE drone features a high-resolution 50x zoom EO camera, a low light sensor, and a high-power laser illuminator. It also contains an increased capacity for payloads.

The upcoming RQ-20 AE will likely be based on the existing Puma RQ-20, a surveillance drone that was first introduced in 2008 and is currently in use by the United States Air Force, Marin Corps, and Army. The RQ-20A system uses three air vehicles and two ground stations and can facilitate effective surveillance even during extreme weather conditions. The existing drone can withstand wind speeds of up to 29mph, an inch of rain per hour, and temperatures between  −20 and 120 °F.

The AE drone will have a range of 12 miles and three hours of flight time, a wingspan of 9 feet, and will weigh 14 pounds.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.