The Royal Navy say that the lightweight Puma drone is undergoing its first operational testing on Albion’s autumn deployment to the Mediterranean as its operators from 700X Naval Air Squadron’s Phantom Flight – normally based at Culdrose in Cornwall – develop new tactics and work out how it, and other unmanned aerial systems can be used side-by-side with other Royal Navy vessels and equipment.
Puma provides the operations team with extra ‘eyes in the sky’, feeding back a live image in various weather/environmental conditions allowing commanders to make quick and accurate decisions, say the Royal Navy.
“Just over 4½ft long, with a wingspan of 9ft and weighing as much as six bags of sugar, Puma flies for up to two hours potentially monitoring an area of up to 270 square miles of ocean – that’s larger than the size of Greater Manchester. Given its size and weight, the small drone can be launched from Albion’s sprawling flight deck, or from the open decks of her much smaller landing craft.
It requires just three sailors: a vehicle operator to control the camera in flight, a mission operator to pilot/navigate the Puma and a Flight Commander who integrates the drone with the ship and other aircraft in the area.”
The Royal Navy say that, with a top speed of over 50mph, the drone can keep up with and track fast inshore attack craft threatening Albion or her task group, or ‘go-fasts’ used by drug-runners to traffic illegal narcotics, providing high resolution images and video for intelligence purposes, and provide oversight of Royal Marines as they are carry out raids.