AeroVironment has been awarded an $8 million contract for the first increment of the US Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) program.

The American defense contractor is vying to become the manufacturer of the service’s future tactical drones.

The recently-awarded contract covers the purchase, testing, and delivery of one JUMP 20 medium drone to a selected Army Brigade Combat Team.

The company will also provide associated services, training, and support.

According to the press release, AeroVironment successfully met all performance requirements for the FTUAS program while offering high technology and manufacturing readiness.

“With Increment 1 of the FTUAS program, the Army will be testing and fielding the JUMP 20 on an accelerated schedule as they seek a replacement for the RQ-7B Shadow UAS currently fielded in Brigade Combat Teams,” company vice president Gorik Hossepian said.

Once initial testing is complete, the US Army may exercise the option to procure and field up to seven additional JUMP 20 drones under the program’s first increment.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare AeroVironment’s JUMP 20 drone for flight. Photo: Luke J. Allen/US Army

The FTUAS Program

Launched in 2020, the FTUAS program was established to replace the RQ-7B Shadow drone currently fielded with ground maneuver brigade combat teams.

As the service’s future primary day/night, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition drone, the FTUAS should have modern datalinks, advanced electro-optical sensors, and an infra-red laser range finder.

The drone must also have manned-unmanned teaming capabilities and operate autonomously.

“Designed with a modular open systems approach, FTUAS payloads will be easily interchangeable,” the Army said. “The FTUAS will be readily deployable using Chinook helicopters and provide commanders more flexibility on the battlefield.”

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JUMP 20 Medium Drone

AeroVironment’s JUMP 20 is a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

It reportedly delivers up to 14 hours of flight time and a range of 115 miles (185 kilometers), making it suitable for multi-mission operations.

With a payload capacity of 30 pounds (14 kilograms), the JUMP 20 system can be set up in less than an hour without launch or recovery equipment.

The platform is also “highly customizable” for various operational requirements.

“Its ability to be deployed, operated and sustained from anywhere is a game-changer in theater and in situations where the enemy has invaded or destroyed infrastructure,” Hossepian said.