UK’s Ministry of Defence has purchased an unarmed ScanEagle UAV as a part of a £30m contract to boost surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of British warships.
Manufactured by Boeing’s subsidiary Insitu, the 22kg drone with an over three-metre wingspan will be carried by Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships. Being able to fly at around 60 knots, the vehicle will be launched by a pneumatic catapult from the ships’ deck and controlled by specialist teams aboard the ships.
ScanEagle is the first drone ever designed specifically for the purposes of maritime operations. The prototype was tested in 2002 and the aircraft has been used by several nations since.
"ScanEagle provides the Royal Navy with proven surveillance capability that has already been used on operations by other nations, so we know we are getting top quality equipment,” said Philip Dunne, UK’s Minister for defence, equipment, support and technology. "The technology is off-the-shelf and will be available to the Royal Navy as soon as possible.”
ScanEagle carries several instruments for advanced remote sensing, including an electro-optical and infrared camera and a NanoSAR A radar, the smallest synthetic aperture radar in the world. Data from the instruments can be transmitted in real time to the control centre within a 100km distance. ScanEagle can fly for more than 20 hours, performing surveillance and monitoring operations in the vicinity of the ships, before having to return to the base.
According to Royal Navy Captain Ian Annet, the drone will improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Royal Navy that currently rely mostly on helicopters and long range radar.
"ScanEagle’s ability to deploy during the day and night coupled with the technology it uses, will give commanders a clearer picture of the operational situation whenever it's required," he said.
Philip Dunne highlighted that the current purchase is essential to keep UK's armed forces up to date.