Army builds up Raven fleet

The U.S. Army recently awarded another $16.5 million to AeroVironment Inc. to build more RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial aircraft systems.

This is the second installment of funding for a contract that has a total projected value of $65 million. AeroVironment officials announced the initial award of $15.8 million in June.

The additional funding, which comes out of the Army’s fiscal 2012 procurement budget,  will pay for Raven UAVs, new miniature gimbaled payloads and initial spares packages, according to a recent AeroVironment release.

The Raven is a 4.2-pound, back-packable, hand-launched UAV. Its sensor platform is designed to provide day and night, real-time video imagery wirelessly to a portable ground control station for an "over the hill" and "around the corner" reconnaissance capability to tactical units.

AeroVironment’s ruggedized, multi-axis Mantis i23 payload for the Raven system houses an electro-optical and infrared thermal video sensor in addition to a laser illuminator.  The single payload replaces two separate sensor payloads on the Raven air vehicle, delivering daytime and nighttime capabilities from a single package, company officials maintain.

“The Army is quickly and easily integrating the new miniature gimbaled payload into the Raven systems because of its reliability in providing superior imagery and tracking capability in harsh environments,” Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said in the release.

“We anticipate our new payload, an example of our focus on continuous and cost-effective capability enhancement for the warfighter, will become a standard component of currently fielded and future Raven systems.”

The Army has about 1,700 Ravens in its inventory and plans to increase the fleet to 2,300 systems.

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