Friday, February 17, 2012
Worth reading about: ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft System
As you read this, there are an estimated 20 Insitu ScanEagles on airborne surveillance duty somewhere on this planet.
Military buffs will probably remember the American-made ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft System as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that made a surprise appearance aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) stealth frigate, RSS Steadfast, during a media embed in February 2009.
Insitu officials at the Singapore Airshow were tight-lipped about their customer list. But this blog understands that this machine can be categorised in the "worth reading about" category.
Richard Aplin, a business development manager with Insitu Pacific, said there are more than 1,000 ScanEagles in service worldwide. A sizeable number serve aboard warships that never operated UAVs before. Here's where the ScanEagle's compact, foldable launcher and Skyhook retrieval system allows space-challenged warships to operate and recover the UAVs out at sea.
"ScanEagles expand the reach of the commander who is now able to exert his influence a long way away," said Mr Aplin, adding that navies routinely send ScanEagles for over-the-horizon scouting missions.
ScanEagles can be operated by as few as two personnel - a pilot and sensor operator. However, prolonged usage will require the presence of a maintenance team.
It takes about 10 weeks to train a newbie to operate the ScanEagle system.
Some interesting trivia about the ScanEagle:
* Fielded by the United States Navy for NATO-led operations off the coast of Libya codenamed Operation Unified Protector.
* Provided an aerial watch during the April 2009 hostage rescue mission that freed the captain of the 1,092-TEU container vessel Maersk Alabama off Somalia.
* ScanEagles can send live, colour imagery to small boat crews tasked with executing Visit, Board, Search and Seizure missions. The eye-in-the-sky can also support compliant or non-compliant boardings by checking the blindside of vessels being approached by small boat teams.
* A ScanEagle can stay airborne for more than a day. While at sea or in the littoral zone, its mothership can send it over-the-horizon for a look-see without exposing the host warship to enemy surveillance.
* RSS Steadfast demonstrated its ability to operate UAVs when it launched and recovered a ScanEagle at night. The launch was witnessed by embedded Singaporean media (plus your's truly, who was already with RWS). ScanEagle's status with the RSN is unknown. As a side note, the RSN had also experimented with a shipborne UAV developed by DSO National Laboratories called NATALEE.
Posted by David Boey at 8:05 PM