The Royal Navy’s lightweight Puma drone has come on â€˜leaps and bounds’ during sorties supporting Royal Marines on amphibious assaults in the North Sea and Baltic. The drone can monitor an area larger than the size of Greater Manchester during its flights, feeding back real-time footage to help sailors and Royal Marines make accurate tactical decisions. The Puma is just over 4Â½ft long, with a wingspan of 9ft, and is designed to fly for up to two hours carrying out reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions over sea or land.
The Puma has been supporting Albion and Royal Marines of 45 Commando as part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment to the North and Baltic Seas, including during their participation in the large-scale Baltops exercises alongside militaries from 17 other nations. The fixed-wing Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) is flown by 700X Naval Air Squadron â€“ normally based at Culdrose in Cornwall â€“ and can be launched from Albion’s sprawling flight deck or from the open decks of landing craft.
The Puma carried out recces of potential landing areas, feeding vital information to Royal Marines as they landed on coastlines at night on training missions. It was also on hand to respond to reports of enemy positions and moved in to search the area, giving commandos an extra edge as they moved in. The drone remained close to the commandos as they moved inland, tracking enemy movements and sending information back to help battlefield decisions using the on-board infrared camera.
The Puma is flown by two junior sailors, an Air Engineering Technician (AET) and Naval Airman Aircraft Handler (NAAH) with a Flight Commander/Air Traffic Controller providing overall mission command. The Puma’s ability to support warships at sea is being developed quickly, with the drones also being utilised to conduct Maritime Patrols, giving ships better understanding of what is around them.