Boeing and The Insitu Group have recently signed a long-term contract that will facilitate continued joint collaboration and production of the low-cost, long-endurance ScanEagle autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The contract, which has the potential to run for up to 10 years, follows a 15-month agreement signed in February 2002 to develop a prototype UAV based on Insitu’s Seascan miniature robotic aircraft. As part of the initial agreement Insitu will deliver three prototype vehicles to Boeing.
Since the initial contract signing last year, three ScanEagle prototypes are said to have completed more than 50 test flights.
The four-foot long aircraft is the smallest UAV to carry an inertially stabilised gimballed video camera, which is standard equipment on all ScanEagles. The system allows the UAV to track both stationary and moving targets. Depending on customer requirements, ScanEagle is capable of carrying a number of other sensor payloads.
ScanEagle takes off from a catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed missions using the Global Positioning System. The UAV is then retrieved using a ‘Skyhook’ system in which ScanEagle catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole. The patented system will allow it to operate from forward fields, mobile vehicles or sea vessels in a range of surveillance and communication roles for military and commercial customers.