SATTAHIP, Thailand: Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2010 provides a unique experience for the U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy (RTN); but this year, a new technical aspect was added, as the Puma All Environment (Puma AE) evolutions were conducted for the first time.
Developed by Aerovironment, the Puma AE is a lightweight, man portable, mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fitted with tiny high-resolution cameras, providing operators real-time video of people and places on the ground, and can be used for maritime patrols, special operations teams and in search and rescue or disaster response operations.
Several senior Thai Navy officers, including Rear Admiral Chaiyot Sundaranaga, Commander, Frigate Squadron 2, attended a demonstration on the Puma’s capabilities aboard the Royal Thai Navy ship, HTMS Naresuan, while it was moored at Sattahip Naval Base. Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander, Task Force 73, also attended, and the group watched as video images transmitted from the Puma as it flew several kilometers away from the ship.
“I am impressed with the length of time it is capable of flying,” said Capt. Bhanupan Sapprasert, Commander of the Royal Thai Navy ship HTMS Kraburi.
The Puma AE can be packaged for collecting data with GPS coordinates. Infrared (IR) cameras enable the Puma AE to be used at night for search and rescue missions.
The Puma has the capability to interface with smart phones, transmitting information back and forth. Naval Postgraduate student, Marine Capt. Carrick Longley, who works on the field information support team, gave a demonstration of how a smart phone works with the Puma AE.
“It’s ideal for disaster response in Southeast Asia. Just change the SIM (cell phone data) card and anyone can use it,” said Carrick.
While the Puma AE has been deployed in more than 20 countries and after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the research and development is ongoing.
Information exchanges like those involving high-tech gear like UAVs allow partnering CARAT nations to stay atop of the latest advances.
CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationship and enhance force readiness.