The RQ-20 Puma is a small hand-launched UAV designed by AeroVironment and is currently in use with around 20 nations (ingame nations include: Germany, France, UK, Sweden and the USA).
It was chosen for the United States Special Operations Command in 2008 and has been modified bit by bit over the years. It is one of many small UAVs produced by AeroVironment and procured by the US Military.
In April of 2022, the USA announced a military aid package for Ukraine that included Puma UAVs.
History & General Information
It was first selected by the US Special Operation Command in 2008, but was not procured until March of 2012, where Puma AE variants where purchased by the US-Army and classified as the RQ-20A. Later that year the USMC and USAF also ordered the RQ-20A. In 2013 it was certified by the FAA for commercial use in US-airspace. This was done to utilize the UAV to aid in oil-related accidents and to count the animal population in Alaska, as it would be far more expensive to use manned aircraft for such duties. Only 3 Puma UAVs were certified with the requirements, that there will only be 1 of 3 Pumas in the Air at any given point, that they don’t fly through clouds or “icing conditions” and that they don’t start or land during certain windspeeds. In 2014 the first certified flight was completed in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
In 2014, the United Kingdom tested the RQ-20A with various ISR-packages that were compatible with the experimental M80 Stiletto boat. During clashes with kurdish militants and the Turkish military in 2016, Turkey captured several RQ-20s that were probably supplied to the kurds via Syrian sympantizers. In the same year the USN tested the RQ-20B Puma on a guided missile destroyer (DDG) with a “Precision Recovery System” to get the drone onto the ship autonomously. Its now also used in the persian Gulf on patrol vessels.
Variants of the RQ-20 Puma
RQ-20A Puma: Military designation for the Puma AE
Enhanced Puma: upgraded Puma AE with more powerful engine, bigger batteries, auxiliary payload bay, precision navigation system with secondary GPS and redesigned Airframe
Solar Puma: Puma AE with solar cells, able to be used for 9 hours
RQ-20B Puma: more powerful and lighter engine, reinforced and lightened airframe, bigger batteries, precision inertial navigation system and new sensor suite
LRTA Puma: Puma AE with long-range tracking antenna and increased range
Puma LE: bigger batteries and longer wingspan
Puma 3 AE: capable of landing on water and land, improved sensor suite and longer range
Specifications of the RQ-20A Puma
Battery duration: 2 hours
Payload: Gimbaled payload, 360° continuous pan, +10° to -90° tilt, stabilized EO, IR camera and illuminator