November 29, 2013      

Prioria Robotics of Florida announced earlier this month that the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) awarded them $4.5 million in federal contracts to deliver 36 unmanned aerial vehicles to the U.S. DoD by December. The 36 Maverics, which are not in the Army?s current UAS inventory, cost between $100,000 and $200,000 each. The Maveric is classified in the micro-UAS category and, more than the commonly deployed Raven and Puma UAS, resembles a bird. The small UAS weighs about 2.5 pounds, can speed up to 55 knots and can be launched by hand by a single soldier. Allen McDuffee at Wired?s Danger Room noted this week that the current fleet of US drones can be easily spotted and targeted in the sky. The solution is to forget about the military look and ?make them look like birds,? McDuffee wrote. ?There was a Special Operations requirement for a plane that had a natural, biological look – it wasn?t supposed to look DoD-ish,? Derek Lyons, the vice president of sales and business development at Prioria, recently explained to Flightglobal. Among Maveric?s features are the ability to fly for 60 minutes before refueling is necessary. It also contains sensors for day, night or obscured hazy environmental reconnaissance work. More importantly, the UAS can fly in sustained winds of 20 knots and up to 30-knot gusts, according to FEF project manager, Tami Johnson. In a statement from Prioria, the Gainesville, Florida company said its product was approved by the Army because it is ?usable in the most rugged conditions and equipped with the largest number of payload options of any hand-launched? unmanned aerial systems. At this time, the REF has no plans to purchase more Maverics, but that could change pending Soldier feedback or additional requirements from theater, Johnson said. She added the REF will continue to work closely with the program manager for Army UAS, informing them of any Soldier assessments or requirements as they come in. Johnson explained the role REF plays in acquiring new technologies, “As the REF procures emerging capabilities to meet urgent Soldier requirements, we are often inserting technologies for the first time and assessing operational performance,” Johnson explained. “Maveric UAS is a good news story for the REF. It demonstrates our ability to validate a unique requirement, canvass emerging commercial-off-the-shelf and government-off-the-shelf technologies, and partner with other Army organizations to quickly place capabilities into the hands of Soldiers.”