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Boeing ScanEagle UAV
The Boeing ScanEagle is a small, runway independent, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the U.S. military for autonomous surveillance in the battlefield. Capable of long-endurance flight at altitudes of up to 19,000 feet, the ScanEagle can be launched and recovered in virtually any weather from land or ship. A success as a portable unmanned aerial system (UAS), the ScanEagle was deployed starting in August 2004 in the Iraq War. The U.S. Navy has operated the ScanEagle in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, and the U.S. Marine Corps has used it for battlefield monitoring in forward operating bases in Afghanistan in situations in which the RQ-7 Shadow UAV cannot be deployed.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Boeing ScanEagle Development
The ScanEagle is derived from the SeaScan commercial UAV developed by Insitu for gathering weather data and collecting information for commercial fishing. In February 2002, Insitu signed an agreement with Boeing to jointly develop the ScanEagle.
The ScanEagle is a small, lightweight UAV. Its most distinctive features are the lack of a tail and the high aspect ratio of the wings. A rear-mounted two-stroke gasoline-powered model aircraft engine acquired off-the-shelf powers the UAV. ScanEagles can reach a top speed of 75 knots, with a cruising speed of 60 knots. The Block D ScanEagle set an endurance record for its class, staying aloft for 22 hours and 8 minutes at Boeing's test range in Boardman, OR.
Onboard sensors include an inertially-stabilized electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) camera or similarly stabilized turret systems. The ScanEagle was the first UAV to have an inertially-stabilized turret. Onboard communications operate over a range of approximately 70 miles. ScanEagles built under the designation Block D have a new transponder, video system, and higher resolution camera.
The ScanEagle is designed to take flight from a pneumatic launcher created from a university engineering design project. The design, now held under patent by Insitu, is known as the SuperWedge and eliminates the need for an airfield.
The ScanEagle is recovered using the SkyHook retrieval system, in which the UAV maneuvers with high accuracy differential GPS and uses a hook on its wingtip to snag a rope handing from a pole approximately 40 feet long. The ScanEagle snags the rope, and then is left hanging. The ScanEagle is then lowered, unhooked, and can be brought in for maintenance or redeployment.
The ScanEagle undertook its first autonomous flight in June 2002. Onboard navigation allows for autonomous missions to be flown via designated waypoints. The UAV operator can view camera images from the drone in real time, and capture images by locking the camera onto a particular target.
Boeing received a U.S. Marine Corps contract in July 2004 for two mobile ScanEagle units, each consisting of eight ScanEagle Block A drones, for use with the First Expeditionary Force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not officially a Marine Corps asset, the ScanEagle is leased from Boeing and operated by U.S. civilian contractors where the Marines want. The contractors work with both Marine intelligence and infantry to provide useful information and real-time intelligence.
Boeing, in cooperation with Insitu and ImSAR, performed a successful flight test of a ScanEagle with a Nano-SAR radar onboard on 18 March 2008. The Nano-SAR is a very small synthetic aperture radar (SAR), weighing only two pounds, and can operate in real-time under adverse weather conditions or battlefield obscurants.
In 2009 Boeing and Insitu announced the NightEagle, a ScanEagle from the Block E group with an added infrared camera for night operations.
ScanEagle Operational History
The ScanEagle first saw service in 2005 with the U.S. Navy, which used it for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions flown from various types of ships. The U.S. Marines began using the ScanEagle in Iraq for surveillance and reconnaissance in 2004 in units such as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 (VMU-2).
The U.S. Marine Corps started operating the ScanEagle in Afghanistan in forward operating bases such as Edinburgh in the Helmand province in 2010.
A U.S. Navy ScanEagle monitored the escape attempt of Captain Richard Phillips on 10 April 2009. Phillips, the captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, had been captured by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Characteristics of the Boeing ScanEagle
Note: Characteristics above are for the ScanEagle A.
Recommended Books about the Boeing ScanEagle and UAVs
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