3D Robotics

$300,000 for a Raven?

3689383728?profile=originalThe latest US purchase of Raven UAVs was announced:

"AeroVironment, Inc. (AV) (NASDAQ:AVAV) announced today that it received an order valued at $46,226,984 under an existing contract with the U.S. Army. The order comprises 123 new digital Raven small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and initial spares packages as well as 186 digital retrofit kits for the U.S. Marine Corps. The order also includes 339 digital retrofit kits for the U.S. Army."

Assuming that those "digital retrofits" are just switching out the video transmitters to encrypt the signal, which is not a big deal, this sounds like ~$300,000 per plane, which is about the same price as the similarly-sized Wasp


I know that a Raven clone, APM and some decent video equipment is not quite milspec, but given that it costs about 1/1,000th as much and does more or less the same thing, why aren't the military considering cheaper alternatives?


(Yes, I'm aware the real Raven is much more robust, the onboard optics are much better, the Raven kits include ground stations and all that other stuff. But still: are they one thousand times better?)

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  • Ok, After this post, I Agree!  300,000 could get you Cesna and the Short Circuit Robot to Fly it...  Way too much, but then again after watching Youtube of all these Raven Video's, they Crash the Raven Everytime on the landing, it falls right apart and gets put right back together..  The rate I am going through planes, I am going to be spending 300,000 soon on easystars..  I kind of want the raven now...  Is there a link to buy the same Airframe? quality wise in where its snap on and go? and I can crash over and over?



  • T3

    "A neat fact about the founder of AeroViroment, Paul MacCready designed the first human powder aircraft and was model plane enthusiast."

    He was also born in a wealthy family what gave him at least access to startup money and contacts with reasonnable ppl in world military superpower ON THE RISE. So let's don't be naive.


    I agree 35KUSD for raven is ok in current conditions.

    1-5KUSD is plain stupid ignoring delivery chain and subcomponents.

    while 10KUSD was not to be witnessed in an economy driven by old companies and uneven access to capital.

  • The $35,000 does not surprise me. Considering the quality of optics for both day and night use and that much of the tech is closed source proprietary. The large price tag is not that excessive to me. Another thing to take in consideration is what the RQ-11 has to offer, the ability to provide immediate observational capabilities to ground leadership. While the Army is embracing UAVs at fast pace, not everyone on the ground will have access to Shadows or the Grey Eagle when they need it. Compare the flight hours costs of light aircraft to the
    RQ-11 purchase price makes it a bargain in the eyes Pentagon types that manage the acquisition and procurement of aviation systems.

    There was a interesting documentary that came out last May about a group of Danish Soldiers that deployed to Afghanistan. There was a good amount footage of the RQ-11 in action. One scene that impressed me was how they would use the Raven to find targets for mortar teams. RQ-11 serve as both recon platform and provide on the spot battle damage assessment. All the while allowing the commander to watch it as it happen on the GCS connected to overhead projector.

    What does $35,000/$300,000 price tag mean to the diydrones community. If people are willing to pay $35,000 for micro UAV, you could easily sell some on one that is a tenth of the cost and is close to what the Raven offers.

    Just my thoughts..

    A neat fact about the founder of AeroViroment, Paul MacCready designed the first human powder aircraft and was model plane enthusiast.
  • Doesn't sound like it's too far off the mark.
  • I'm not sure who handles the Ravens, but when it comes to all things training related, that all falls under a government entitiy called PEO-STRI, based in Orlando, FL.  STRI as it's called lives to 'manage' contracts and for each one they manage they reap a 'fee' which can amount to 10% or more of the product or service involved.  Understand they aren't spending their own money for the goods and services, but the end users.  No wonder the cost for things the military uses are as high as they are.

  • Moderator

    Krzysztof is right on the money.  As I recall most of the parts for a second CGS are included in the package.  In their game it's all about being able to get the job done, that's why the systems are so redundant.


    Regarding multiple planes and one GCS, isn't that the basis of swarm operations?  It's more about interacting with the swarm than controlling any of the individual members...


    Back to the Ravens, those suckers are very robust, anyone done any work with kevlar over foam?

  • T3

    @ionut Get real, 4 UAVS and one GCS means GCS crashes 4 times less often than the UAV.

    Raven flies for 1h or so. How do you think they prepare for launching mishap? They have 1 more ready for action, one being inspected and recharged, one in minor repairs or just lost somewhere.

  • Brian:So you use one GCS to control 4 planes simultaneously? I wonder how that GCS looks like?4 soldiers crowded over a screen having a fight for the joystick.
  • Moderator


    The Skylark uses an air-bag system to protect the electronics installed in the platform.  While this is a little more sophisticated (ok a lot) than the "near vertical deep stall landing" employed by the Raven, it is not an accident that it pops apart during landing.  If stuff is designed to seperate upon impact, energy is dispersed, minimizing damage.  Yes they get beat-up, but they are designed to be beaten.  They are kevlar coated so they can handle the abuse.  The purchase of one Raven system includes 4 platforms and one GCS and an assortment of spares and accessories.

  • 3D Robotics
    Ron, previous estimates were $250,000, so I think we're in the right ballpark. It's still 1,000 times more than an amateur equivalent.
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