NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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Successful Testing of a Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Net Capture System

April 7, 2015

Photo of the Puma hitting the Bullseye during the March 17th testing from NOAA R/V Shearwater.
Photo of the Puma hitting the Bullseye during the March 17th testing from NOAA R/V Shearwater.

The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program in conjunction with AeroVironment and OMAO successfully tested the Puma autonomous shipboard recovery system. This system was tested last Summer onboard the USCGC (Icebreaker) Healy and has benefited NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard by increasing safety and efficiency during Puma operations aboard ships at sea and in the Arctic. UAS operations were conducted in the Santa Barbara Channel within the National Airspace System on 17 March 2015 onboard the NOAA R/V Shearwater. The post-mission analysis and reviews continue with final procedures being established for upcoming deployments.

AeroVironment has developed this system for small boats and ships with restricted deck space. The capability to operate the Puma from a ship provides a huge benefit in terms of maritime surveys, aerial surveys and overall situational awareness for ship’s personnel. The net-capture system's development is aimed at ships that are too large to be able to conveniently retrieve Puma from a deep-stall autoland into the water, or when it is too dangerous to recover it from the water like in the Arctic. The recovery system consists of a recovery net, high-accuracy differential GPS (dGPS) airborne and ground station components that provide precision guidance information. A precision approach mode on the autopilot utilizes the high resolution approach information to fly an automated approach to the center of the capture net.

PUMA on approach and hitting the bullseye
PUMA on approach and hitting the bullseye.

Contact information
Name: John J Coffey
Tel: (904) 923-1709
john.j.coffey@noaa.gov