US Army Allocates Quarter Billion US$ for Small UAS

The NOVA Block III UAS from `altavian is used by US Army Engineers to monitor aquatic habitats in Florida.
The NOVA Block III UAS from `altavian is used by US Army Engineers to monitor aquatic habitats in Florida. Photo: Altavian
RQ-11B Raven small UAS fitted with the Mantis gimballed EO Payload
RQ-11B Raven small UAS fitted with the Mantis gimballed EO Payload. Photo: Aerovironment

The US Army announced has awarded Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract (ID/IQ) to five manufacturers of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) worth together up to $248 Million. The funding will cover deliveries of small UAS systems over the next five years. The funding will cover the Army’s own UAS, as well as some orders for other military branches, civilian government agencies and foreign countries.

The beneficiaries are Aerovironment, of Monrovia, Calif., Altavian and Innovative Automation Technologies from Gainesville, Fla., Elbit Systems of America from Fort Worth, Texas and Lockheed Martin Corporation, Owego, N.Y.

The Army awarded these shell contracts to all five companies that entered the bid to cap the future procurement, per specific requirements as defined by the Army. According to Aerovironment, the funding will enable the company to continue deliveries and support of RQ-11B Raven and RQ-20A Puma AE systems, as well as competing on medium- and long-range small unmanned aircraft systems.

Lockheed martin has recently demonstrated the Stalker performing a continuous 48 hour mission, utilising laser-beamed power. Photo: Laser Motive.

“This new IDIQ contract provides for continued procurement of small UAS, reflecting the high value of this capability.” said Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. Lockheed martin will be able to offer the Stalker UAS for the Army, as well as to other services relying on Army procurement for their UAS needs.

For Elbit Systems, the recent win is a major step forward in the US Small UAS market. In 2011, UAS Dynamics – a joint venture established between Elbit Systems and General Dynamics in 2009 lost the opportunity to sell its drones to the US Marine Corps, under the STUAS competition that was eventually won by Boeing/Insitu. Few months later General Dynamics divested its share in the company. The recent win is an important opportunity for Elbit Systems to regain its foothold in the North American market, particularly with the its Skylark 1LE Block II which was modified specifically for the US market.

According to Elbit Systems of America President and CEO, Raanan Horowitz, Skylark I-LE Block II offers more mission flexibility, enabling the Skylark to fly higher without degradation of imagery.

For IA-Tech and Altavian the Army contract opens new opportunities for growth. Altavian CEO John Perry, said he expects the Army to put out bids within the next few months, according to the Gainesville Sun. Perry said his company could triple its workforce if they wins substantial orders for its Nova Block III unmanned aircraft system. In August 2012 Altavian and ISR Group announced a teaming agreement, to expand Altavian’s marketing, operations and support to international markets and areas of operation. Sofar the company has been focusing on domestic operations.

Elbit Systems developed the enhanced version of its first generation Skylark, designated ‘Skylark 1LE’ to meet specific requirements defined by the US military services. Among these capabilities are increased payload capacity, allowing for more endurance and carriage of the M-STAMP multi-sensor payload. The Israeli Army has recently opted to upgrade its Skylark 1 systems with this new capability.