ScanEagle is a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Boeing and The Insitu Group. The UAV completed its first flight in 2002. The aircraft’s design is based on SeaScan, a miniature robotic plane that Insitu produced for collecting weather information and was used by commercial fishers to find schools of tuna.
ScanEagle launches from a pneumatically powered catapult and is flown on a predetermined flight plan that can be modified in-flight. It can also be flown by a remote operator by using GPS guidance. It comes standard with an infrared or inertially stabilized electro-optical camera. The internal avionics bay is designed to readily incorporate future upgrades and a custom payload.
ScanEagle doesn’t land at the completion of its mission. Instead, a 50′ pole with a dangling rope catches the UAV. The advantage to this system is that ScanEagle is runway-independent and can be launched from ships, vehicles, and frontline battlefields. The propeller-driven airplane can remain in the air for up to 19 hours on less than two gallons of fuel. It has the ability to work even in heavy rain and high wind which is notable for the fact that it’s only four feet long with a wingspan of ten feet. Most aircraft of that size would not be capable of performing adequately under those conditions. The plane and all the equipment necessary to operate it can fit into four Humvees.
Though ScanEagle flies at low altitude, because of its small size it’s very difficult to visually detect. In addition, the exhaust mufflers point skyward which minimizes the plane’s risk of detection by sound. ScanEagle is powered by a gasoline engine that will eventually be converted to one that can burn jet fuel.
The US Marines and US Navy have used ScanEagle extensively in Iraq for real-time reconnaissance, intelligence, and surveillance work. ScanEagle is also used by the Royal Navy for land reconnaissance in support of maritime operations. In 2007, the Australian army awarded a contract to Boeing Australia Limited for surveillance and reconnaissance services using ScanEagle.
Maximum weight: 40 pounds
Engine(s): One 2.5 HP single-cylinder, two-stroke 3W-28 gasoline engine
Maximum speed: 75 knots