ScanEagle, a long-endurance fully autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle developed by Boeing [NYSE:BA] and The Insitu Group, successfully demonstrated high-speed wireless communications relay during a recent flight at the Boeing Boardman test range.
Enabled by Harris Corporation’s National Security Agency-approved Type 1 classified SecNet-11®Plus technology in ScanEagle’s avionics bay, streaming video and voice-over IP communication was sent from a ground control station over a secure high-bandwidth network to ScanEagle 18 miles away. The data was then instantaneously relayed to ground personnel six miles from the UAV.
"This flight demonstrated the capability for troops on the ground to receive critical information and situational awareness in a secure environment" said Dave Martin, Boeing ScanEagle program manager. "ScanEagle and SecNet-11 together provide secure bandwidth and aerial relay endurance, key factors in creating a network centric battlefield."
Boeing received a contract from the U.S. Marine Corps in July to deploy two ScanEagle "mobile deployment units" for use with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since ScanEagle was first deployed in Iraq this summer, the UAV has provided critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information to tactical commanders.
ScanEagle recently surpassed 1,400 flight hours during operations in Iraq.
The Marines have relied heavily on the system due to its long-endurance capability, unique ISR value and ability to operate in a harsh weather environment.
Due to its unique launch and recovery systems, ScanEagle is unaffected by terrain and other conditions, eliminating the requirement for runways or prepared surfaces. ScanEagle is launched autonomously via a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed or operator-initiated missions. It is retrieved using a "Skyhook" system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole. The patented system allows ScanEagle to operate in remote areas or aboard ships.
ScanEagle is four-feet long and has a 10-foot wingspan. For a vehicle of its size, ScanEagle’s endurance/payload combination is unmatched. The ScanEagle "A-15" — the current model — can remain on station for more than 15 hours. Future planned variants will have an endurance of more than 30 hours.
ScanEagle is the first small tactical UAV with an inertially stabilized turret. As standard payload, ScanEagle carries either an electro-optical or an infrared camera. The gimbaled camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets, providing real-time intelligence to users. Capable of flying above 16,000 feet, ScanEagle has also demonstrated the ability to provide persistent, low-altitude reconnaissance. Phantom Works, the advanced research and development unit and catalyst of innovation for the Boeing enterprise, is assisting in the development of ScanEagle. Through its Integrated Defense Advanced Systems group, it provides leading edge systems and technology solutions to Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, one the world’s largest space and defense businesses.
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Picture provided and copyrighted by Boeing