Support system for Scan Eagle UAV completes flight testing

A shipboard system designed to support the launch and recovery of the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has completed flight testing at a testing range in eastern Oregon.

Sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Compact Launch and Recovery System (CLRE) will provide a small-scale solution for the unmanned surveillance craft’s operations.

‘This system’s shipboard capability is unique,’ said John Kinzer, manager of ONR’s Air Vehicle Technology Program. ‘It’s more compact than other systems, so you can install it on a small special operations boat — or save additional space on a larger ship, since space is always at a premium on any vessel.’

The Scan Eagle is designed to provide the military with advanced capabilities for real-time situational awareness and force protection information.

In use, the CLRE is said to use a compressed-air launcher to fire the Scan Eagle into the sky. Once airborne, the UAV transmits real-time electro-optic and infrared (IR) imagery to a ground station where it can be recorded for analysis.

To land, small hooks on the UAV’s wings catch hold of rope suspended from the system’s extendable mast and arms. Once the mission is completed, the whole system can be folded up.

Developed by Insitu, the system is smaller and lighter than the current SuperWedge launcher and Skyhook recovery systems combined.

Its design reportedly accommodates all weight classes of the company’s Scan Eagle UAV design, including a model equipped with an IR camera, and provides the same air vehicle successful recovery rate.

The system is currently trailer mounted for testing and ease of towing behind ground vehicles, but Insitu is exploring modifications of this version for rapid deployments. Its turntable base allows for mounting to a variety of integration structures.