UAS reaches new highs

Boeing recently reached two milestones with its ScanEagle unmanned aerial system by logging its longest continuous flight with a prototype and by logging over 20,000 combat flight hours in Iraq.


Boeing and team member Insitu recently reached two new milestones with its ScanEagle unmanned aerial system (UAS). The milestones were achieved when the UAS logged its longest continuous flight after a prototype was flown for for 22 hours and eight minutes at its test range in Boardman, Oregon; and by logging a total of more than 20,000 combat flight hours supporting US Marines in Iraq.




For the continuous flight, the team flew a preproduction prototype Block D ScanEagle in a simulated mission profile, and completed the task with a fuel reserve.



The Block D configuration incorporates enhancements such as a higher-resolution infrared camera; an inertially-stabilised camera turret to maintain stable imaging; a new video transmitter system; rover interoperability for mobile operators; in-flight fuel measurement systems, and other advances for reliability and modularity.


At war



Since August 2004, ScanEagle has provided real-time imagery to support persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions for the marines.



‘Our feedback from the marines during the past two-and-a-half years of operation has been very positive. The ScanEagle UAS is now an integrated element in their daily operations,’ said Roger Carleton, director for Boeing Advanced Unmanned Systems.



ScanEagle is a product of Boeing Advanced Systems’ Advanced Precision Engagement and Mobility Systems in a joint effort with Insitu.



It is designed to offer low-cost, long-endurance UASs to provide persistent ISR as well as flexible, rapid-deployment for various government and civilian applications.



The vehicle is mounted with either an electro-optical or infrared camera. The camera’s turret allows the operator to track stationary or moving targets without having to re-manoeuvre the UAS itself. ScanEagle can fly low-and high-altitude (above 4,870m) stealth missions and can operate in adverse weather conditions such as high winds and heavy rain.



The UAS is launched autonomously via a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed or operator-initiated missions guided by GPS and an onboard flight control system. It is retrieved using Insitu’s patented SkyHook system that uses a rope hanging from a 15.24m pole to catch the UAS.


ScanEagle’s portability enables it to be launched, operated and retrieved from close-support locations, mobile vehicles and small ships. In addition to supporting the marines, ScanEagle is in service with the US Navy, performing ship-based operations.