AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma

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RQ-20 Puma
U S Marine Corps RQ-20 Puma 4-M-DE476-005.png
AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma
Role Remote controlled UAS
Manufacturer AeroVironment
First flight 2007
Introduction 2008[1]
Primary users United States Army
United States Marine Corps
United States Air Force
Number built 1,000+[citation needed]
Unit cost
$250,000+[citation needed]

The AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma is a small, battery powered, American hand-launched unmanned aircraft system produced by AeroVironment based in California. Primary mission is surveillance and intelligence gathering using an electro-optical and infrared camera.

Design and development[edit]

Previously selected for the United States Special Operations Command in 2008, in March 2012 the United States Army ordered the Puma All Environment (AE) and designated it the RQ-20A.[2] In April, the United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force placed a similar order for the RQ-20A.[3][4] Each military RQ-20A system has three air vehicles and two ground stations.[2] The Puma AE can operate under extreme weather conditions including temperatures ranging from −20 to 120 °F (−29 to 49 °C), wind speeds up to 25 knots (29 mph; 46 km/h), and an inch of rain per hour.[5]

On 26 July 2013, the Puma became one of the first unmanned aerial vehicles to be granted certification by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in U.S. airspace for commercial purposes. AeroVironment expects one to be deployed to Alaska to support oil spill response crews and count wildlife. The Puma can safely accomplish observation missions in hazardous Arctic locations, which is safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than using manned aircraft. Commercial certification was the result of previous military certification and the Congressionally-mandated opening of airspace over much of Alaska to small UAVs.[6] The FAA also certified the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle, also planned to be deployed to Alaska. Only three individual Pumas were certified with strict requirements: only one aircraft of the type is allowed airborne at any one time, they cannot fly through clouds or icing conditions, and they cannot take off or land during certain gust and wind conditions. The certifications did not mention line-of-sight control.[7]

A U.S. soldier launches a RQ-20 by hand

On 8 June 2014, the Puma AE made its first flight for BP in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, making it the first authorized unmanned commercial flight over land.[8]

The UK tested ISR packages compatible with the Puma AE on board the M80 Stiletto trials ship in November 2014 under Capability Demonstration 15-1.[9]

On 20 January 2016, a number of RQ-20 were captured by the Turkish army from the PKK. It is suspected that the Kurdish militants were able acquire these drones from their Syrian affiliates.[10]

In August 2016, AeroVironment announced the U.S. Navy had tested and deployed the RQ-20B Puma aboard a Flight I Guided Missile Destroyer, which included the company's Precision Recovery System to autonomously recover the aircraft aboard a ship. The Puma is also being utilized on Navy patrol craft in the Persian Gulf.[1]


RQ-20A Puma
Military designation for the Puma All Environment variant.
Block 2 Puma AE, includes a more powerful and lighter propulsion system, lighter and stronger airframe, long endurance battery, precision inertial navigation system an improved user interface, and the new, all environment Mantis i45 gimbal sensor suite.[1]
Solar Puma
Puma AE powered by ultra-thin solar cells that increases endurance to 9 hours.[11] Production version planned for early 2014.[12]
Enhanced Puma
Upgrade of the RQ-20A Puma AE with more powerful propulsion system and new batteries that increase endurance by 75 percent to 3.5 hours, auxiliary payload bay to integrate payloads while keeping the video camera, precision navigation system with secondary GPS, and a redesigned durable fuselage with reinforced construction and improved aerodynamics. Available in early 2014.[13]
Puma AE upgraded with a long-range tracking antenna (LRTA) that extends range to 60 kilometers (37.28 miles). Available Spring 2018.[14]


Map with RQ-20 operators in blue
  • Estonian Army - Unknown number of RQ20B Puma AE II UAVs purchased in September 2018. Delivery to be expected by March 2019.[18]
 United States


Data from [22] Puma AE data sheet

General characteristics

  • Length: 4 ft 7 in (1.4 m)
  • Wingspan: 9 ft 2 in (2.8 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 13 lb (5.9 kg)


  • Maximum speed: 52 mph; 45 kn (83 km/h)
  • Minimum control speed: 23 mph; 20 kn (37 km/h)
  • Range: 9 mi; 8 nmi (15 km)
  • Endurance: 2 hours

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c US Navy deploying new RQ-20B AeroVironment Puma AE aboard Guided Missile Destroyer -, 11 August 2016
  2. ^ a b U.S. Army Places $20.4 Million Order for AeroVironment RQ-20A Puma AE Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  3. ^ U.S. Marine Corps First to Procure Four Different AeroVironment Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems with $5.5 Million RQ-20A Puma Order
  4. ^ AeroVironment Scores Another Small UAS Success -, 27 April 2012
  5. ^ Puma unmanned craft tested on USS Gonzalez -, 23 September 2015
  6. ^ AeroVironment's Puma becomes first UAV to earn FAA commercial certification, FlightGlobal, 26 July 2013
  7. ^ FAA certifies two UAVs for commercial operations, FlightGlobal, 26 July 2013
  8. ^ Drone at Prudhoe Bay makes first FAA-authorized unmanned commercial flight over land -, 10 June 2014
  9. ^ Scott, Richard (26 October 2014). "Dstl plans unmanned ISR payload demonstration from Stiletto". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Allen McDuffee, "Launch This New 9-Hour Solar-Powered Drone from Your Shoulder", Wired, 13 August 2013
  12. ^ AeroVironment Solar-Powered Puma AE Small Unmanned Aircraft Achieves Continuous Flight for More Than Nine Hours -, 16 August 2013
  13. ^ AeroVironment Introduces Block Upgrade to Puma AE Unmanned Aircraft System, Including 75 Percent Increase in Flight Duration -, 21 October 2013
  14. ^ AeroVironment's PUMA AE UAS receives new antenna -, 15 September 2017
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Estonia and Portugal procure AeroVironment small unmanned aircraft systems". The Defence Post. 15 September 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-09-15. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Puma numbers -, February 19, 2013
  21. ^ [1] - NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries
  22. ^ Puma AE data sheet

External links[edit]