AeroVironment Inc. [AVAV] Feb. 7 announced a $45.8 million Army award for additional RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and associated services by the exercise of a one-year option under an existing multi-year contract.

Each Raven system typically consists of three aircraft, a ground control station, system spares, and related services. In fiscal year 2009, the Army budget request for Raven is $32 million in procurement and research, development, test and evaluation. The bulk of the funds would be used to buy the aircraft, hardware, logistics support and training.

The option was submitted under the existing Army joint small UAS program of record for AeroVironment’s Raven and will provide systems for the Army and Marine Corps. This program allows for contract additions from the Army, Special Operations Command and other U.S. military services. The items are scheduled to be delivered within one year of the contract award date.

“We are pleased to support the Army and Marine Corps’ expanding rollout of Raven systems to the tactical ground forces that rely on them,” John Grabowsky, AeroVironment executive vice president and general manager of UAS, said. “Our partnership with our customers enables us to provide them with battle-proven, durable Raven systems that perform reliably when and where they are needed. The increased deployment of Raven systems across the U.S. armed forces reflects the joint and interoperable nature of this solution.”

The Raven is a 4.2-pound, backpackable, 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. armed forces use Ravens extensively for missions such as base security, route reconnaissance, mission planning and force protection. According to the Army, Ravens flew approximately 150,000 combat hours in 2007.

In addition to Raven, AeroVironment’s small UAS include Puma and Wasp, which are also hand-launched and controlled by the company’s hand-held, common ground control station.

AeroVironment’s UAS logistics operation supports systems deployed worldwide to ensure a consistently high level of operational readiness. To date, the company has delivered more than 8,000 small unmanned aircraft.