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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Matt Cox
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  • Guest

    …and low ranking Joes everywhere breathe sigh of relief.

    “gee sarge, can’t we send raven instead?”

    Now if only raven would burn field latrines…

  • Tiger

    Seems like a lot for a RC plane with a camera.

  • Kent S.

    Tiger, your little RC planes do not fly with laser designators, Daytime/nighttime, Infrared thermal capabilities and more, do they? These RC’s must perform in the field, not down at the air park.

  • Bill Nye

    It’s good to see the army getting more of these. This is a type of system that can be useful in a multitude of situations and theatres.

  • Rob

    Why is he throwing it by hand? Why not just mount a slingshot launcher on the vehicle? Exposure can = death.

  • T075

    Money well spent.

  • Jeff M

    Aren’t they building bombs for this thing?

  • Pappa51

    But if a civilian mounts a camera on his UAV or RC model P-51 and flies over the fence of a Nudist camp it’s invitation of privacy? Or he might look over the back yards of his neighbor and spots the guys wife sun bathing; he could get shot. Wait tell the Taliban has an armed P-51 with a camera and goes hunting for the armies in armed UAV. . . Just a thought. ..

    • Mike

      I sense a fixation with the number 51. In case you haven’t heard, they do put missiles on UCAV’s.

  • 101st Ranger

    The Raven is not an effective tool for a squad or platoon. It has limited range, cannot avoid detection, and the full mission video doesn’t provide detail. I have used it in multiple countries and in combat and training.

  • edzach

    They aren’t rugged enough to be left out on a rail on a HummV while you drive around and maybe swipe branches and such. You would have to get out of your vehicle, attach the wings, put it on the rail, and then get back in. If you’ve got to do all that, why not just throw it in the air and get back in.

  • Jay D Levine

    Reminds me of the FQM-117 ,RCMAT Aerial Target that the Army Air Defense Artillery,Chaparall and Vulcan Battalions use to use ,I know I use to fly them for 5/3 ADA,8th Inf Div in Germany They looked like Soviet Mig 23 Floggers

  • Spider

    It doesn’t sound like a highly effective fit. Small number of troops, flying a loud, buzzing, slow plane, 500-1,000 feet away from a small number of insurgents, looking for things being “out-of-place” when the area is unfamiliar. Total flight time is about an hour, realistically.

  • C Munroe

    On the right track but my expo tells me this is not the final throw.