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US Army takes another stab at ‘rucksack portable’ drone

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is again attempting to buy rucksack-portable unmanned aircraft systems after trying a variety of ways to establish the capability over roughly the past decade.

The service tried in 2012 and 2013 to issue a capabilities production document for rucksack-portable UAS, and it issued contracts to a group of companies in 2013 to supply small drones on demand, but nothing gained traction as the quintessential capability.

The Army’s Raven and Puma UAS — both small, hand-launched aircraft — have continued to be in operation, but aren’t as portable as the service wants, particularly at the platoon level.

The tiny Black Hornet UAS was selected as a soldier-borne sensor, but the Army still wants to find short-, medium- and long-range UAS that can fit in a backpack, according Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd, the service’s program executive officer for aviation.

Todd’s program office has been tasked by the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, to pursue rucksack-portable UAS, and this time the Army is prepared to act quickly.

“We think we will be very agile and get a capability out there in relatively short order,” Todd told Defense News in a recent interview.

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