Oregon-based Evergreen Helicopters unmanned systems division is in advanced negotiations with Insitu for the establishment of a strategic alliance to offer global commercial UAV services.
The planned relationship would mirror Insitu's existing relationship with Boeing for the military marketplace, but would use the Insight civil-configuration UAV rather than the military-configuration Scan Eagle.
Evergreen has already signed orders for one Insight system. That system, comprising a number of air vehicles, mobile ground control station, catapult launcher and a "sky hook" recovery system, will be used by Evergreen to support an initial service capability.
Initial core markets will include fire monitoring, commercial fisheries spotting, and critical infrastructure protection. The initial system will carry a mix of electro-optic and infrared payload types.
A baseline agreement is in place between the two companies with the full scope of the strategic alliance expected to be locked down shortly.
Evergreen announced its intention to enter the commercial UAV services market two years ago. Initial plans were based around development of a combined fleet of UAV types, including the Bell Helicopter Eagle Eye tiltrotor with the company holding options for three of those aircraft. The future of those options is now being reviewed as part of an assessment of options for a vertical take-off and landing system as a potential part of its market mix.
Evergreen has also previously assessed potential adoption of UAVs from Aeronautics Defense Systems of Israel, including its Orbiter, Aerosky and Aerostar series. But that notional arrangement has now set these aside in favour of Insight as Evergreen's preferred fixed-wing type.
Insight and Scan Eagle are both derivatives of the original Insitu Sea Scan system.
The fire-monitoring role will see Evergreen adapt its Insight system to enable it to be air deployed by its current commercial firefighting aircraft fleet, including its new Boeing 747 fire bomber.