ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

ScanEagle autonomous unmanned vehicle in flight

ScanEagle is a low-cost, long-endurance, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed and built by Boeing and The Insitu Group. The UAV is based on Insitu's SeaScan miniature robotic aircraft and draws on Boeing's systems integration, communications and payload technologies. It carries either an electro-optical or an infrared camera. Both are inertially stabilized. The gimbaled camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets. ScanEagle vehicles can operate individually or in groups to loiter over trouble spots.

The four-foot-long ScanEagle system can provide more than 15 consecutive hours of "on-station" coverage and can operate in harsh weather environments, including high winds and heavy rains -- conditions that can keep other UAVs on the ground. The ScanEagle's internal avionics bay allows seamless integration of new payloads and sensors and ensures the vehicle will be able to incorporate the latest technology as it becomes available.

The ScanEagle is launched autonomously by a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies preprogrammed or operator-initiated missions. A "skyhook" system is used for retrieval, with the UAV catching a rope hanging from a 50-foot-high pole. The patented system allows ScanEagle to be runway independent and operate from forward fields, mobile vehicles or small ships.

ScanEagle made its first flight in 2002 and participated in the Joint Forces Command Forward Look exercises from December 2003 to June 2004. In August 2003, ScanEagle "A," the first vehicle in the ScanEagle family, successfully demonstrated its long-endurance capability with a 15.2-hour flight at the Boeing Boardman test range in Oregon. The flight was the first time the test team put two UAVs in the air simultaneously.

In April 2004, ScanEagle made the first autonomous launch and recovery for fixed-wing UAVs aboard the 58-foot fishing boat, Shackleton. In July 2004, the U.S. Marine Corps awarded the Boeing/Insitu team a contract to provide two ScanEagle mobile deployment units. In August 2004, ScanEagle completed the longest flight ever recorded by a UAV launched and retrieved at sea -- 16 hours and 45 minutes. During the record-setting flight, it did aerial surveillance of sea conditions and ships in Puget Sound, Wash., waters, demonstrating the type of mission anticipated for shipboard operations. Deployed to Iraq the same month with the First Marine Expeditionary Force, it operated as a forward observer to monitor enemy concentrations, vehicle and personnel movement, buildings, and terrain.

In December 2004, ScanEagle demonstrated high-speed wireless communications relay during a flight at the Boeing Boardman test range. In April 2005, the U.S. Navy signed a $14.5 million contract with Boeing and Insitu to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage during Naval Expeditionary Strike Group missions and security for oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. In September of the same year, the Navy awarded a $13 million contract modification to provide ScanEagle system support for Navy high-speed vessels and an afloat forward staging base. Serving with the U.S Navy since July 2005, it supported missions conducting oil platform security in the Persian Gulf.

By Feb. 28, 2006, ScanEagle had surpassed 10,000 combat flight hours in less than two years supporting U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy operations.

The ScanEagle system also has been used to support the United Kingdom's Joint UAV Experimentation Program, through an industry team that includes Thales, QinetiQ and Boeing. During trials conducted off the coast of Scotland, ScanEagle was launched from land and then handed over to the ship-based controller.

ScanEagle home page

First flight: April 2002
Type: Autonomous unmanned reconnaissance vehicle
Length: 4 feet
Wingspan: 10 feet
Altitude: 16,000 feet and low altitudes
Endurance: 16 to 48 hours
Payload: Electro-optical or infrared camera