AeroVironment Inc. (AV)(AVAV) yesterday announced it received a $23.9 million firm fixed price order under an existing contract that consists of digital Raven systems and kits to upgrade existing analog Raven systems now used by the Army and Marines with AV’s digital data link.

“We began deliveries of digital Raven systems at the end of October, and are increasing production in response to customer demand,” John Grabowsky, AV executive vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said. “Our digital data link uses the frequency spectrum allocated to small UAS much more efficiently than the analog link it replaces. As a result, digital Raven systems allow our customers to increase significantly the number of Raven air vehicles that can be used in a given area, as well as provide greater communication security through signal encryption, and enable valuable new capabilities such as beyond line-of-site operation. Digital Raven systems will directly benefit ground forces by helping them operate more effectively and safely, wherever and whenever they need them.”

DoD supplemental funding provided the funds for the contract modification.

The total potential value of this order is $66.6 million, of which $42.7 million is not yet funded but has been added to the maximum potential value of the contract supporting this program, the company said.

The Raven unmanned aircraft is a 4.2-pound, back-packable, hand-launched sensor platform that provides day and night, real-time video imagery for over the hill and around the corner reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of tactical units.

U.S. forces use Raven systems extensively for missions such as base security, route reconnaissance, mission planning and force protection.

In addition to the Raven system, AV’s small UAS include Puma AE(tm) and Wasp(tm), which are also hand-launched and controlled by AV’s hand-held ground control station. AV has delivered thousands of small unmanned aircraft to date. International purchasers of Raven systems include Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain.

The Army plans to soon field a proof of principle UAS tool kit, with small medium and large hand-held hand launched UAS to meet the stressing terrain conditions troops face– particularly in Afghanistan (Defense Daily, Dec. 11). The toolkit will include AeroVironment’s Raven, Puma and Wasp. The three will temporarily bridge the gap in Afghanistan’s Northeast.