December 2005/January 2006
Volume 04, Issue 8
|Integrated Defense Systems|
An eye in the sky
ScanEagle provides situational awareness, clear battlefield picture
BY CHICK RAMEY
Flying 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."
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