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?)

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Comment by Ron Jacobs on December 29, 2010 at 8:38am
The Raven is millitary, but very similar to what alot of people here are working on. Similar airframe, vaguely similar utility. Interesting cost comparison and lesson on you get what you pay is millitary though
Comment by Ron Jacobs on December 29, 2010 at 8:43am
Perhaps we need a Millitary keep millitary blog posts to a minimum?
Comment by Assaf Weiss on December 29, 2010 at 8:51am

Krzysztof - No one even implied that "TOTAL" cost (i.e - money that goes to the contructor) includes training, assuring wharehouses full of spare parts, covering for lack of adaquate equipment from the army side and so on...

Armies are used to "confidentiality" and everything that smells bad goes directly under this umbrella, so if they are buying UAS's for 30K each and the rest gets spent on buying big screen TVs for some big shot's office, the army can say its part of the "TOTAL" cost of the system, this how it works everywhere (especially from where I come, Israel, where the army is Holy and untouchable).

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 29, 2010 at 8:52am
I apologize for what appears to be the military post, but it was really to make an economic point about amateur vs pro UAVs. I very much do not want this site to get into military UAV coverage.
Comment by Petr Hubacek on December 29, 2010 at 9:37am
You have to calculate with some salary for those who work on the plane. There are not 5 people only and they dont sell it in thousands. It is not open source plane. People has they salary and suppliers as well. ;-)
Comment by Ron Jacobs on December 29, 2010 at 9:54am



Yes, same point I made re your post. Relative economics, hobby/amateur vs., life and death dependability/profit. I think NASA should design a UAV for a 90 day mission on mars; maybe it would last as long as the Rovers have, on Mars anyway.

Talk about off-topic...;)

Comment by Ravi Gaddipati on December 29, 2010 at 10:10am
I read an excellent article a while back (I think it was in "Technology Review" Published by MIT) about programming. Mil-spec hardware is one thing, but Mil-spec code is in a totally different category. With mechanical systems, you can interpolate. If it works at 0 degrees and 100 degrees, you can be sure it will work at 65 degrees. With code, everything has to be tested. I read a wiki article on a method to "bug-proof" code, but the name escapes me now.
Comment by ionut on December 29, 2010 at 11:05am
I wonder what happens when an cadet crash a plane after a bad launch?:)300 000 push-ups.

Also they can get for every soldier a red Ferrari.It's cheaper.And if you consider the wow factor, the enemies get stoned at the site, meanwhile they'll be neutralized.Or even better, they ll want to join in the army.
Comment by Melih Karakelle on December 29, 2010 at 11:21am
300.000$ is lower than one stuff's NATO accreditation (each year) and cost of military grade development languages. "military" is a magic word and multiples all costs with 1000. I guess they paid more than 300.000 for interference tests and 2 or 3 times more for electronic war resistance knowhow.
Comment by Ron Jacobs on December 29, 2010 at 1:39pm
Thats only 71,338.00 per "Unit", so actually not bad.  $46226984/648 "Units" Or is my math wrong...


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