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Frontiers June 2013 Issue

with a high-quality video camera that could be launched and retrieved from a fishing boat to track tuna in the world’s oceans. It was called SeaScan. Today, Insitu has about 800 employees, including about 200 who are deployed in the field in support of military operations. “These seasoned professionals, many with multiple deploy-ments, work side by side with the warfighter, continually providing feedback that allows us to fine-tune and adapt to customer needs, wants and desires,” said Steve Morrow, Insitu president and chief executive. “From training to logistics, and from production to operations, we have learned to operate leanly and with tactically significant results, fielding game-changing enhancements.” Insitu’s headquarters is an unassuming building on the main street of Bingen, population 730, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Portland, Ore. The company is probably best-known for ScanEagle, a small, unmanned aircraft with sophisticated, high-tech optics that can transmit real-time video while being controlled from a ship or mobile ground station, or even by an operator on the other side of the world. In Iraq and later in Afghanistan, ScanEagle has proved its mettle as an invaluable intelligence, surveillance and reconnais-sance vehicle for the U.S. military and its allies. ScanEagle also has been used for a growing variety of nonmilitary purposes, from tracking polar bears to spotting noxious weeds in Australia. The company has developed a bigger and more capable unmanned aircraft known as the Integrator, and more cutting-edge products are in the works. “It’s an agile, innovative company and it’s been fun to see a lot of changes,” said Kate Pinner, an instructional training designer who joined Insitu in 2007, one year before it was acquired by Boeing. After her best friend moved to the Gorge, Pinner, who likes to hike and snowboard, visited and fell in love with the area. It turned out that her degree in instructional design was perfect for a job opening with Insitu. “Because we are still relatively small, we get the opportunity to do a lot of different things, to wear different hats,” Pinner said. That view is shared by other Insitu employees, who say the company has retained its entrepreneurial culture and not strayed far from its roots. “We’re always trying to problem-solve for the customer,” said Sam Trevino, an unmanned aircraft flight instructor who has worked at Insitu for six years. “We’re allowed to be creative and bend over backwards to help our customers.” Creative thinking and problem-solving are part of the founding fabric of Insitu. The then-fledging company’s first unmanned craft, SeaScan, was developed as a cheaper alternative for the tuna industry, which used expensive helicopters to track schools of the fish. The craft never found a successful market, but Insitu had set the stage for success later with ScanEagle by also developing and perfecting an innovative SkyHook retrieval system. It uses a hook on the end of the craft’s wingtip to catch a rope hanging from a pole. A shock cord reduces stress on the airframe caused by the abrupt stop. Charlie Guthrie, Insitu senior vice president of advanced programs and engineering, and the company’s chief technology officer, recalled the first time he saw ScanEagle plucked from the sky with a rope. “I thought this would never work,” he said. “But without this “Because we are still relatively small, we get the opportunity to do a lot of different things, to wear different hats.” – Kate Pinner, senior instructional design specialist BOEING FRONTIERS / JUNE 2013 23 PHOTOS: (Opposite page, clockwise from top left) ScanEagle unmanned aircraft in production; Justin Pearce, left, Manufacturing test engineer, and Radjesh Azore discuss testing on the unmanned Integrator; Jim McClanahan, left, senior aviation technician and ScanEagle production team lead, and Darin Holtz, aircraft systems technician, run ScanEagle tests. (This page, from top) Darren Lanz, Manufacturing test engineer, evaluates ScanEagle test data; Azore performs testing on an Integrator.


Frontiers June 2013 Issue
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