Based on project initially developed for fishing fleets, ScanEagle is aimed at military users

Autonomous flight tests have begun of a lightweight, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) developed by Boeing and the Washington state-based Insitu Group.

The 3m (10ft)-span vehicle is being developed as part of Boeing's expanding unmanned systems activities, and is based on the Insitu-developed Seascan ship-based surveillance vehicle. The initial autonomous test flight lasted 45min.

"We are developing a portfolio which at one end is the unmanned combat air vehicle and at the other is the ScanEagle," says Boeing Unmanned Systems director of rapid prototyping and advanced concepts, Charlie Guthrie.

"Seascan is a commercial system that Insitu was developing for the fishing fleet. We're leveraging off that work and increasing operational capabilities to meet the needs of military users," adds Guthrie. Boeing plans to develop ScanEagle as part of a system-wide UAV approach.

During the test flight the catapult-launched vehicle received real-time navigation updates from a ground station before being retrieved using a "skyhook", with the UAV snagging a rope suspended from a 10m-high pole. Future tests over this month and next will demonstrate increasing levels of autonomy, culminating in automatic launch and recovery.

Tests with a variety of sensors will include stabilised daylight video and infrared sensors and a suite of chemical/biological threat detectors, communication packages, listening devices and relay payloads.

Boeing also plans to upgrade to a more efficient four-stroke piston in place of its two-stroke unit. This will make the UAV compatible with military fuels such as JP7.


Source: Flight International