December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Integrated Defense Systems

An eye in the sky

ScanEagle provides situational awareness, clear battlefield picture


Stewart "Rico" Errico, a Boeing Phantom Works flight-test engineerFlying effortlessly at 1,200 feet over Iraq, ScanEagle's roving "eye" watches as a group of men disembark from a truck. Two set down their weapons and begin digging.

Miles away, at a protected location on the ground, U.S. Marine Corps tactical commanders watch the action unfold live. ScanEagle's unique reconnaissance abilities allow them to assess the situation and, if warranted, immediately send troops to confront the suspected insurgents.

Peggy Holly, Boeing Integrated Defense Advanced Systems ScanEagle program manager, said that's one example of how the small autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle can provide real-time situational awareness. Since August 2004, the First and Second Marine Expeditionary Forces have relied heavily on the 4-foot-long UAV as a forward observer to monitor enemy concentrations and vehicle and personnel movement.

ScanEagle's "eye" is actually an electro-optical or an infrared camera, depending on whether it's been tasked with day or night missions. The UAV's gimbaled camera, with full pan and tilt capabilities, allows it to easily track both stationary and moving targets.

"ScanEagle has become one of the Marine Corps' most useful tools for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance," Holly said, noting that ScanEagle has provided more than 6,500 combat flight hours of service in Iraq.

The Marines aren't the only service making use of ScanEagle. Boeing, and its partner Insitu, received a contract from the U.S. Navy in April to support Expeditionary Strike Group missions and help increase oil platform security in the Persian Gulf. ScanEagle currently is being used to support Navy high-speed vessels and an afloat forward staging base as well.

Holly added that ScanEagle's operational success can be attributed in large part to the Boeing and Insitu people embedded with the Marines and Navy to support launch and recovery activities (see story below).

Meanwhile, back in the United States, Boeing and Insitu are hard at work incorporating additional capabilities. Said Holly: "I don't think anyone has yet seen all that ScanEagle can accomplish."


ScanEagle 'helping save lives' in the field

Boeing and Insitu employees in the United States and abroad are supporting ScanEagle operations by the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy with equal fervor. Those embedded in the field, however, have additional responsibilities that include daily maintenance, mission planning/monitoring, and takeoffs and landings from ship or shore. Since August 2004, small teams from Boeing and Insitu have been in Iraq working alongside First and Second Marine Expeditionary Force members. In July, teams also began supporting Navy Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and oil platform security missions.

Employees receive two months of classroom and hands-on flight training prior to their field assignment. One of those employees, Dennis DeLong, a Boeing Phantom Works field service representative, was in Iraq earlier this year flying and maintaining ScanEagle. His job included everything from takeoff to landing, and then preparing ScanEagle for its next flight. "The Marines would tell us there was a certain area they wanted monitored. Our team came in, put the vehicle together, completed a system check and then launched," said DeLong.

Stewart "Rico" Errico, a Boeing Phantom Works flight-test engineer, recently returned from supporting ScanEagle ESG operations in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Cleveland. He also worked with the Marines in Iraq. Errico said one of the challenges was that the Cleveland was in a new position daily. "Each day on the ship we had to quickly get acclimated to our new environs and then complete additional related tasks prior to launch," he said. Another challenge was the hostile weather, which included fog and high winds at sea and extreme temperatures and sandstorms on the ground.

"It was a rewarding experience to know we were helping save lives," DeLong said. "I constantly received positive feedback about how useful ScanEagle's video was to the troops."

"It was a huge draw for me to volunteer for this duty, because the Marines are my brothers and sisters," said Errico, currently an inactive Marine Reservist. "I know our team's activities are helping keep military members safe by providing cutting-edge support in a critical environment. And that's what it's all about."

—Chick Ramey


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