Launch and Recovery of ScanEagle UAV at Insitu’s Flight Test Facility

Iran this week is showing off its first ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), but they didn’t buy it. And, according to the Pentagon, they didn’t shoot it down either. Although no positive identification has been forthcoming, it’s probable that the aircraft on Iranian TV is one that was lost over the past few months — something that occasionally happens due to a variety of reasons. More details should come out in a few days.

The ScanEagle UAV is a relatively simple and effective small aircraft made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, of Bingen, Washington. It’s been widely employed since 2004 by the U.S.  military and several allies in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles. The UAV can be fitted with a variety of payloads — usually sensors that include electro-optic or infrared imagers, but not weapons — and, weighing between 28 and 44 pounds (depending on the payload), the UAV is easy to lift and carry.

Defense News visited Insitu’s flight test facility in northern Oregon on November 13, where the company checks out all its aircraft. The Boeing-sponsored trip gave reporters an opportunity to see in action the SkyHook that catches the aircraft in mid-flight, snagging the wing tip on a rope hanging from a boom. Insitu engineers insisted the method doesn’t harm the little aircraft, although they admitted they didn’t believe it until they saw the results first-hand!

All photos by Christopher P. Cavas. Thanks to Marcus Weisgerber for splicing together the video!

An Insitu engineer using a starter -- similar to an electric drill -- to spin the propeller and start a ScanEagle's engine.

The ScanEagle warms up for a takeoff from the launcher. At left is the SkyHook used to recover the UAV.

The UAV passes overhead. The ScanEagle can fly a pre-programmed flight pattern or can be guided by an operator.

An Insitu engineer packs up a ScanEagle in its storage/carrying container.

The container features a tray table that folds up for assembly, and back down for storage.

Engineers roll the folded SkyHook into the flight test center's storage hangar.

In the hangar, a NightEagle UAV was on display. The aircraft is fitted with a mid-wave infrared camera in the nose, able to see through smoke, fog or night. It features the same 10.2-foot wingspan than ScanEagle but is several inches longer -- 5.3 feet vs. 4.5-feet -- and is fitted with a vertical stabilizer for better directional stability.

Also on display in the hangar was an Integrator, a new, larger UAV able to carry a wider variety of payloads than the ScanEagle. The aircraft weighs 80 pounds empty but can take off with an overall weight of 135 pounds, and has an extended beyond-line-of-sight mission radius up to 550 nautical miles. Its standard sensor package includes an electro-optic camera, a mid-wave infrared camera, an infrared marker, and a laser rangefinder.


Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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