USS Gonzalez tests Puma at sea
The guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) conducted testing of an unmanned aircraft system during a Composite Unit Training Exercise. RQ-20A Puma (Block II) is the second iteration of the all-environment unmanned aircraft models and is used in situations with a greater need for manoeuvrability, such as maritime inter- diction and counter-piracy operations.
The all-environment term comes from its ability to withstand temperatures ranging from –30 to 50 degrees Celsius, an inch of rain per hour, and wind speeds of 25 knots. Also it is fully operational day or night. Its smart batteries and waterproof body allow for many types of missions all over the world.
“When I first checked aboard USS Gonzalez I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to run the Puma project, but after working with the equipment and people, I realised its capabilities are innovative and resourceful,” said Ensign N. Sanchez. “It augments what we are already capable of doing. It really aligns with the Chief of Naval Operation’s mandate to ‘operate forward and be ready’.”
A two-person team controls Puma locally; it can also be remotely controlled inside the skin of the ship.
At the end of operations it can land on the ship’s deck in a net or in the ocean with follow-on retrieval by rigid-hull inflatable boat. In case of an inability to recover, no information can be taken as all information is transmitted to and kept within the receiving ship.
Puma weighs 13.5 pounds with a wingspan of just over nine feet and has an operating altitude of 500 feet or higher in order to manoeuvre above terrain.