Boeing has agreed to acquire the Insitu Group -- its long-time partner and specialist in the field of high-performance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) -- only weeks after the Washington-based start-up decided to independently seek to win a major new contract.

Terms of the pending acquisition were not disclosed in Boeing’s announcement today. Insitu planned to collect $150 million in 2008 revenues, or a 70% increase from the previous year.

“This acquisition is part of a larger plan to aggressively grow our presence in the unmanned systems market,” said Chris Chadwick, president, Boeing Military Aircraft, in a statement.

The acquired company will operate as a separate subsidiary with an independent operating model under Boeing’s IDS division.


“This agreement allows us to leverage the breadth and strength of Boeing to get our organization to the next level,” said Steven Sliwa, president and CEO of 14-year-old Insitu. “At the same time, it allows us to retain the unique culture and environment that have driven the continuous innovation and entrepreneurial agility that have us positioned as a leader in our market.”

Boeing first partnered with Insitu in 2002 to offer the latter’s Insight UAS – renamed ScanEagle -- to the US Department of Defense. Service contracts signed by the US Navy and US Marine Corps quickly followed, and the ScanEagle has so far amassed more than 100,000 operational flight hours in US and international service.

The popularity of the ScanEagle’s full motion video product prompted the USMC and USN to launch a formal acquisition programme called the small tactical UAS (STUAS)/Tier II contract. After a series of delays, the request for proposals (RFP) is now due by the end of 2008.

However, the Boeing/Insitu partnership had recently shown signs of breaking. Insitu had independently developed the larger and more capable Integrator UAS (pictured above), and disclosed plans to Flight International last month to offer the aircraft on its own in the STUAS/Tier II competition, which has attracted several rivals.

The pending acquisition, expected to close by end-September, will allow Boeing to offer either the ScanEagle or the Integrator, depending on the size of aircraft desired in the RFP.

“Bringing these outstanding teams together will accelerate deployment of the next generation of unmanned systems to our U.S. and allied service members,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.