AeroVironment, Inc. unveiled a new miniature gimbaled sensor payload on the battle-proven RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aircraft system April 2 at the Army Aviation Association of America Annual Professional Forum and Exposition.
The modular payload includes a high-resolution color and an infrared thermal video sensor, as well as a laser illuminator integrated into a multi-axis sphere capable of continuous pan. The new payload will become a standard component of future Raven systems and will be sold as an upgrade for previously fielded units. Upgrading existing digital Raven systems to accommodate the new payload requires only a software update to each air vehicle and ground control station.
The new payload is one of four products offered in AeroVironment’s “Mantis” suite of gimbaled sensor payloads now available for commercial applications including unmanned aircraft systems, manned aircraft, ground vehicles and watercraft.
A gimbaled sensor payload enhances the Raven system’s capabilities by allowing a higher level of visual fidelity and continuous observation of an item of interest regardless of the air vehicle’s flight direction. The new payload also replaces two separate Raven system payloads previously required for day and night operation, one containing a stationary electro-optical sensor, the other a stationary infrared sensor. Flight algorithms allow the air vehicle to manage its own flight path based on what the user wants to see, rather than requiring the user to control both the air vehicle and the sensor separately.
Tom Herring, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment said, “Operators rely on the portable Raven system to provide critical, live aerial video that gives troops situational awareness, whenever and wherever they need it. Our new mini-gimbal payload significantly increases the Raven system’s capability and can be quickly and easily integrated into the thousands of digitally enabled air vehicles already deployed. The net result is a more capable solution for protecting and serving the warfighter for a fraction of the cost of a new system.”
Integrating the new gimbaled sensor payload marks the fourth upgrade to the Raven system since its introduction in 2003 and follows the successful introduction of AeroVironment’s digital data link to replace the Raven system’s original analog communication modules.
“By continuously working with customers to understand their needs and desires and improving the Raven system to address them, AeroVironment continues to deliver cost-effective solutions that help them succeed,” said Herring.