The 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?)

Views: 8781

Comment by Alex on December 28, 2010 at 11:48pm

I saw a while ago that a raven system with 4 aircraft and a GCS was like $250,000, why they are so much I wonder sometimes, esp when you watch videos of them 'landing' if u can call it that


But I dont know much about how the military world of acquisition works but isnt that the case for everything the US army buys (and many other armies)?  Saw a funny video on saturday night live once about an advert for a mill spec tin cup, and it was only like $30 000.  Its all about the company behind the product and the fact that they have been flows for 1000's of hours.

Comment by Duane Brocious on December 29, 2010 at 12:09am

Milspecs are often below common item specs, but it costs thousands to millions to prove it to the military. That is why the companies that sell this stuff charge an arm and a leg. How many tin cup companies are going to pay a testing company $500K to test a cup for milspecs before they can even bid it to the Govt?

I think they require specs on lots of things that don't need it though, like tin cups and toilet paper. UL rating should be good enough for most non-critical things but who in Govt cares when it is the taxpayers' money.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on December 29, 2010 at 12:54am

Sounds lower than the last time it rounded the blogs. They must be slacking on the quantitative easing.


There was a time college was only $100,000, houses were only $300,000, & gas was only $3.00.

Comment by ionut on December 29, 2010 at 4:41am

What can you do about it?:)

First time I heard US has more than 10 trillion debt I was shocked, so this looks like a bedtime story.


Comment by Tad Pole on December 29, 2010 at 5:14am
You should see the waste on the *big ticket items*. Nothing but the best for our boys!
Comment by Paul Mather on December 29, 2010 at 5:56am
I know where they can get a cheap GCS :)
Comment by diego colonnello on December 29, 2010 at 5:57am

in this link: it says that the raven costs 35.000$ but the total system costs 250.000$....... what is in the rest of the """TOTAL""" system??? are they speaking about the equipment that the soldier has on itself?  what is included in the other 215.000$ deal?????

By the way, are we writting about military things?  :-)

Comment by Michael Zaffuto on December 29, 2010 at 6:08am

I know what I'd buy if I had half that money (Evektor SportStar Max):


Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on December 29, 2010 at 6:42am

" it says that the raven costs 35.000$ but the total system costs 250.000$ ... what is in the rest of the """TOTAL""" system??? are they speaking about the equipment that the soldier has on itself?  what is included in the other 215.000$ deal?????"

-keeping warehouses full of spare parts at 24h notice for 10 eyars or going CH11 if the prices of maintenance rises?

-teaching 1000 soldiers to use it when only 617 of them are mentally ready and there are 8 capable trainers?

-ironing our commnications bugs that will pop up when connecting using Israeli satellite dish with German optical link somewhere in Afghan?

-setting up equipment for training centre?

-hardware simulator. THE REAL simulator, not matlab script plus arduino core. with protocols that doesn't choke up when a letter is missing here or there.

-retrofitting those 186 packages and finding our that 55% of them are damaged beyond modification, but still operable under obsolete terms

-keeping all operations secret, all discussions put into database (for quality tracing) but all heavily encrypted (leave no traces for outside world)

-collect money for bribing Assange should the worst happen


Raven works because it fulfills customer expectation and sometimes the solution survives in operational reality.

As we all know infinity is about 1e38 (32 bit flopoint ends somewhere there).

Because Raven works and the mentioned styrofoam don't, the diffference of quality can be calculated and equals to mentioned 1e38.

Dividing 1e4 (price) by 1e38 (usefulness), Raven is cheap stuff.

Why the requirements are so ridiculously complex? The idea of dominating using military half of a world is expensive, but when it works - highly profitable.


Comment by Geoff on December 29, 2010 at 8:35am
There are multiple airplanes in each system, four I believe. The $35,000 for each airplane sounds about right, the rest is for GCS, training, spares, etc...


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