March 15, 2006 After the incredible response to yesterday’s story on weaponised micro unmanned aerial vehicles, it is interesting to note AeroVironment’s significant production milestone of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (SUAV) systems that was announced today. The Raven (RQ-11A), a manpackable SUAV used by the U.S. Army and Special Forces since 2002, has surpassed the 3,000th air vehicle mark for production. The Raven is a 4.2 pound, hand-launched sensor platform that provides day and night, near-real-time video imagery for "over the hill" intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of a ground commander. Made of Kevlar and costing US$25,000, it has a range of 80 minutes at up to 90 km/h and can venture up to 15 kilometres from its controller. No greater praise can be given than by those who use the Raven and this can be evidenced at the always excellent military website StrategyPage which reports that the Raven is winning what it terms the unofficial “Commando Olympics.” StrategyPage reports that in addition to the cooperation between the commando units of over a dozen countries assembled to pursue Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s a lot of comparing notes – and the most envied high tech gadget of them all is the Raven.
To date, the electric-powered Raven has flown more than 15,000 combat sorties in Iraq and Afghanistan and clocked up 18,673 flight hours.
Building on the success of the RQ-11A, AV was awarded the U.S. Army's SUAV low-rate initial production contract (LRIP) in October 2005 for its "Raven B," which offers significant product enhancements compared to the current Raven A.
The LRIP award is the first step in an expected multi-year, full-rate production program of a significant number of Raven systems over the five year POM cycle for warfighters of the U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations Command. AV delivered all LRIP hardware in early November and completed development testing for an initial operational test and evaluation scheduled in early 2006.
"This SUAV LRIP award is a significant milestone in our 20-year partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces to develop this class of unmanned aerial vehicle," said Tim Conver, AV's President and Chief Executive Officer. "We reiterate our commitment to on-time deliveries of the highest quality products to meet the needs of our nation's warfighters."
AeroVironment was founded by one of the greatest inventors the world has ever known – Paul MacCready. MacCready founded AeroVironment after achieving the world’s first human powered flight and the world’s first solar powered flight more than a quarter of a century ago. AeroVironment uses emerging technologies to provide its customers with entirely new solutions that increase their competitive effectiveness by enabling them to overcome limitations on productivity, safety and efficiency. AeroVironment is the world's largest supplier of SUAV systems and electric vehicle fast charging systems. Raven, Dragon Eye, Pointer, Swift, Puma, and Wasp SUAV systems are used extensively by the Department of Defense and increasingly by other U.S. government agencies and allied military forces.