The U.S. Army is experimenting with a new "tool kit" of small UAS. A few months ago, the Army decided to explore an option that would give troops the flexibility to deploy three different kinds of small UAS from one package. The air vehicles would all operate from the same common controller, but their variety in size would offer a little more flexibility.
The Army finally determined it will go through a formal acquisition process to create a fieldable kit, but in the meantime it's testing the concept in Afghanistan. Col. Gregory Gonzalez, the Army's UAS program manager told reporters at a Quad-A UAS symposium roundtable here Dec. 9 that a single brigade is testing a kit comprising a Wasp, a Raven and a Puma.
The results of that preliminary deployment will be fed into the requirements documents.
The final kit might look exactly like the Raven package now, or it might end up being entirely different. Tim Owings, Gonzalez's civilian deputy, told us the package may even end up including a "vertical element." It all depends on feedback from the field and what they end up discovering as the official requirements documents are drawn up.
Owings also noted some tweaks being made to other UAS deployed in Afghanistan, including the Shadow, which has had some challenges in the cold weather and high altitudes. The Army is fielding a cold weather kit for Shadow for "better oil distribution across the system," Owings said. The aircraft does not have a heavy fuel engine and there have been problems with icing and vaporization.