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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

22 February 2016

AeroVironment PUMA AE UAS Supporting USCG Ice Breaker for Operation Deep Freeze

In a development that takes the life-saving capabilities of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to one of the most remote and unforgiving regions on earth, AeroVironment announced earlier this year it and a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been contracted to provide the US Coast Guard (USCG) ice breaker POLAR STAR with a RQ-20A PUMA AE UAS and a flight crew for the annual joint Operation "Deep Freeze," the military component of the larger, civilian-managed US Antarctic programme to re-supply the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. The Operation "Deep Freeze" joint team departed Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, on 30 December 2015 and reached McMurdo Station on 18 January 2016.
The use of an UAS to assist USCG in navigating through treacherous Antarctic seas avoids putting crew and costly helicopters at risk.

Operation 'Deep Freeze' is one of the U.S. military’s most complex peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment,” Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment, said. “AeroVironment’s PUMA AE is delivering vital advanced scouting intelligence to help the Coast Guard’s Polar Star conduct ice-breaking operations in the treacherous waters of the Ross Sea more safely and efficiently without putting pilots and costly helicopters at risk.”

During Operation "Deep Freeze," AeroVironment personnel were employing its new Autonomous Recovery System to capture PUMA in a portable net on its return to the ship. PUMA also can be recovered from the sea as a result of its waterproof design. The PUMA AE weighs 13.5lbs, operates for more than 210 minutes, typically at a range of up to 15km, and delivers live, streaming colour and infrared video as well as laser illumination from its pan-tilt-zoom MANTIS i25 AE gimbaled payload. Launched by hand and capable of landing on the ground or in fresh or salt water, the PUMA AE provides portability and flexibility for infantry, commercial, littoral or maritime operations.

AeroVironment received the contract from ADS on behalf of the USCG and is collaborating with NOAA to provide the requested services.