Insitu revealed here this week that Singapore was a customer for the ScanEagle unmanned aerial surveillance system (UAS), and that the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) would evaluate it.
Although Insitu is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, the announcements were made at the company’s stand here (Hall 3 Stand D17f). The U.S. company maintains a proud independence from its parent; the B-word is nowhere to be seen on its stand.
The Republic of Singapore Navy first trialed the ScanEagle in 2009. It has now decided to operate the UAS from its missile corvettes. Insitu said the ScanEagle is uniquely suited to maritime operation because of its space-saving catapult launcher and Skyhook recovery system. “We offer a safer recovery mode–alongside the vessel,” said Ryan Hartman, senior vice president business development.
The first applications for the ScanEagle were on trawlers, which launched the camera-carrying UAVs to check the weather and spot schools of fish at sea. That was nearly two decades ago, when the company had a mere 30 employees. It first teamed with Boeing in 2002 to offer the ScanEagle to the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines liked the autonomously controlled system, and also the Insitu contractor-operated business model, which endures to this day. “We own all the risk–production, shipping to the theater of operation, launch, recovery. We can provide ‘pixels-by-the-hour,’” Hartman explained.
ScanEagle missions can last more than 24 hours; the UAV is virtually invisible and inaudible at its operating altitude, as AIN witnessed during a recent demonstration at Insitu’s test and training site in Oregon.
Boeing bought Insitu back in 2008. Today, it has 800 employees working from multiple sites on both sides of the Columbia River, or deployed as field service representatives. Insitu has now built some 1,300 ScanEagles, and they have logged over 600,000 combat hours. That includes more than 100,000 hours in the past 12 months. “We’re accumulating hours faster than any other UAS in the U.S. inventory,” Hartman claimed. Other military customers include Australia, Canada, Malaysia and the Netherlands.
The Columbia River Gorge has a cluster of small, innovative aerospace companies. They include Hood Tech, whose “super zoom” camera was revealed here Tuesday as a new payload for the ScanEagle. “With the x256 zoom instead of the x56 of our current EO [electro-optic] system, we can read vehicle license plates from a mile away,” Hartman told AIN.
Dominating the Insitu stand is the Integrator, the larger UAV that won the U.S. Navy’s small tactical unmanned aircraft system (STUAS) contest in 2010. Two RQ-21A systems are already in service, ahead of the main production run.