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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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 29, 2010 at 1:43pm
Ron, you're conflating the full Ravens with the wireless upgrades (presumably pretty cheap) for existing Ravens. There are only 123 of the former in this order.
Comment by bGatti on December 29, 2010 at 6:07pm
If I were Obama, I'd have Trappy rounded up and make him a platoon leader - give him half this much worth of FPV, and swarm the Paki border like Cicadas in the Grand Canyon.

T3
Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on December 29, 2010 at 6:44pm

@bGatti

It is unlikely you could see more than 4 Trappies in the circle of 5 miles without interferencing each other.

Cmon, his equipment isn't even tested for EMC vs second system!

Now buy yourself a 4GHz Spectrum Analyzer to get a picture.

Comment by Ron Jacobs on December 29, 2010 at 7:31pm

@Chris

 

Yes, but if you "ass-u-me" the upgradedRaven might be "refurbished" at the same time, then you actually get a totally "new" item.

 

That's the math and rationalization I'd use to loosen the purse strings. it is a huge chunk o change...


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 29, 2010 at 9:28pm
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.

Moderator
Comment by Brian on December 29, 2010 at 10:08pm

@Alex

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.

Comment by ionut on December 30, 2010 at 1:00am
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.

T3
Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on December 30, 2010 at 6:09am

@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.


Moderator
Comment by Brian on December 30, 2010 at 9:19am

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?

Comment by Andrew Van Der Plaats on December 30, 2010 at 11:37am

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.

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