The United States Army has awarded AeroVironment with an $8 million contract to acquire the first Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS), the Jump 20.
The new FTUAS is intended to replace the old generation RQ-7 Shadow drone.
“The Army requires replacement of the workhorse RQ-7B Shadow with a vertical takeoff and landing, runway-independent, reduced acoustic signature aircraft that can be transported organically while providing commanders with ‘on the move’ reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities,” the US Army said in a statement.
According to the army, the replacement for the Shadow drone can be transported by a single CH-47 Chinook helicopter, provide over six hours of operating endurance, and operate more than 100 kilometers.
Based on the results of testing, the US Army may acquire seven Jump 20s in the future.
The contract with AeroVironment, a US drone manufacturer, comes a year after a number of different demonstration events took place, during which soldiers evaluated VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capabilities of the drone.
The AAI RQ-7 Shadow was introduced in 2002. It is a medium-sized drone with a range of 110 kilometers (68 miles) intended for reconnaissance, target spotting, damage assessment and other tasks.
It requires a catapult to be launched, meaning that VTOL capability of the Jump 20 will add a significant degree of flexibility to its operators.