The ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), developed by The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] and The Insitu Group, successfully demonstrated new maritime capabilities for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) while supporting "Trial Vigilant Viper" off the Scotland coast.
The trial's goal was to evaluate how a low-cost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform can contribute to amphibious operations.
Working with Thales and QinetiQ as part of the Joint UAV Experimentation Program, ScanEagle during 10 flights completed autonomous launch and recovery operations from a Type 23 Frigate in rough sea conditions. Missions included land and sea surveillance, beach reconnaissance, force protection, maritime interdiction and naval gunfire support.
"This program marks a major endorsement of ScanEagle's ISR capabilities, which have the potential to enhance future amphibious operations," said Steve Krause, Boeing Advanced Systems Business Development lead. "Equally significant is the fact that ScanEagle conducted the first autonomous take off and recovery from a UK warship, the Type 23 Frigate HMS Sutherland."
As part of Trial Vigilant Viper, ScanEagle used its onboard electro-optical and infrared sensors to identify potential threats as small as jet skis. ScanEagle's ability to determine a target's position, direction of travel and velocity, coupled with its broadcast quality imagery, enabled amphibious force commanders to establish the nature of potential threats. The UAV's contribution to force protection included transmitting real-time high resolution video to ship, shore, a Sea King AEW MK7 helicopter and the MoD in London and Portsmouth, England.
Integration of a UAV into the maritime intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance environment was a key goal of the trials. The trials also helped the MoD investigate the utility of a small UAV supporting Royal Navy ships conducting gunfire support missions. ScanEagle observed fall of shot, successfully passing the data to a gunfire controller for corrections. In the future, it may be possible to control naval gunfire support with "verification of target" as the only human user input.
The U.S. Navy is currently using ScanEagle to provide critical ISR data in support of Expeditionary Strike Group missions and oil platform security.
Insitu Group, located in Bingen, Wash., develops unmanned aerial systems for commercial and military applications. Insitu, which introduced the first unmanned aerial vehicle to cross the Atlantic Ocean, also developed the Fugro GeoRanger and worked with Boeing to develop ScanEagle.
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