• Puma AE hand-launched unmanned aircraft system is scouting the ice shelf ahead of the Coast Guard’s Polar Star, supporting critical ice-breaking mission to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica
• First time an unmanned aircraft system has been used to assist Coast Guard in navigating Ross Sea – avoids putting crew and costly helicopters at risk
SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Feb. 2, 2016 – 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, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV) today announced it and a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been contracted to provide the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star with a RQ-20A Puma™ AE unmanned aircraft system and a flight crew for the annual joint “Operation Deep Freeze,” the military component of the larger, civilian-managed U.S. Antarctic Program to re-supply the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. The Operation Deep Freeze joint team departed Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, on December 30, 2015 and reached McMurdo Station on January 18, 2016.
“Operation Deep Freeze is one of the U.S. military’s most complex peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment.
“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.” Flittie added that updates, video and photography during the mission will be posted on AeroVironment’s Facebook page as connectivity permits.
The Puma AE weighs 13.5 pounds, operates for more than 210 minutes, typically at a range of up to 15 kilometers, and delivers live, streaming color 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.