SEPTEMBER 2016 | 35 engineer Amy Arbeit said. The airplane-shaped ScanEagle, first flown in 2002 and autonomous as well, has been used by the U.S. military and some allies for surveillance missions for a nearly decade. It has also become a favorite for a growing number of commercial and civilian purposes. ScanEagle is currently catapulted by a launcher from a trailer and retrieved by the SkyHook, which is on a separate trailer, dealing with limited launch and landing zones. It requires a clear space for operation, according to Insitu officials. flares, with ScanEagle tethered below it, provides options, said Andrew Hayes, Insitu director of advanced development. It climbs to 500 feet (150 meters) and releases its fellow UAS. The process takes less than five minutes. A ground operator multi-copter and unmanned aircraft working in concert, Hayes noted, a railway can monitor thousands of miles of track to enhance safety, on the constant lookout for boulders or washed-out areas; miles of farmland can be maintained with precision agriculture by an operator working from the back of a truck; or an advancing wildfire can be assessed and dealt with more expediently by authorities if a multi-copter and ScanEagle are launched on the edge of the blaze, Hayes said. In 2013, Insitu teamed with nearby Hood Technologies to come up with a multi-copter concept based on launch and recovery, building a prototype to prove it could work. Program manager Jim McGrew and his team collaborated with Boeing engineers in Huntington Beach, Calif., who have expertise presses a button on a handheld controller and a freed ScanEagle simply flies away from flares. On retrieval, the multi-copter hovers in one place and catches the returning unmanned aircraft with a 300-foot-long (100-meter) cable and gently sets it on the ground. The ScanEagle flies into the cable, which slides down the leading edge of the swept wing until a wing hook engages. “With flares, we can launch anywhere,” Hayes said. “This opens up a lot of different places.” The multi-copter can enhance a military mission by lifting off from the middle of a dense jungle or by navigating tight spaces around buildings, trees or power lines to release ScanEagle, according to Hayes. Commercial customers will find many uses, too. With Insitu’s Photos: (From top) From left, Insitu software engineers Ben Triplett, Ehsan Nasroullahi and Chris Griffis prepare flares for a test flight in Oregon; Nasroullahi inspects flares before it goes airborne; Tyler Sibley, demonstration team UAS operator, uses a handheld controller to direct flares during testing.
Frontiers September 2016 Issue
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