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A ScanEagle in its catapult launcher
Role unmanned aerial vehicle
National origin United States
Manufacturer Insitu
First flight 20 June 2002
Introduced 2005 (United States Navy)
Primary users United States Military
Australian Army
Canadian Forces Land Force Command

ScanEagle is a low cost, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by Insitu and Boeing.


Design and development

ScanEagle is a descendant of another Insitu UAV, SeaScan, which was conceived of as a remote sensor for collecting weather data as well as helping commercial fishermen locate and track schools of tuna. ScanEagle emerged as the result of a strategic alliance between Boeing and Insitu. The resulting technology has been successful as a portable Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for autonomous surveillance in the battlefield, and has been deployed since August 2004 in the Iraq War.

ScanEagle carries an inertially stabilized electro-optical and/or infrared camera on a light-weight inertially stabilized turret system integrated with communications range over 100 km, and flight endurance of 20+ hours. ScanEagle has a 10-foot (3 m) wingspan and can fly up to 75 knots (139 km/h), with an average cruising speed of 60 knots (111 km/h). Block D aircraft featured a higher resolution camera, a custom-designed Mode C transponder and a new video system. A Block D aircraft, flying at Boeing's test range in Boardman, Oregon set a type endurance record of 22 hours, 8 minutes.[1]

ScanEagle needs no airfield for deployment. Instead, it is launched using a pneumatic launcher designed as part of a university engineering design project, now patented by Insitu as the "SuperWedge" launcher. It is recovered using the "SkyHook" retrieval system, which uses a hook on the end of the wingtip to catch a rope hanging from a 30 to 50-foot (15 m) pole. This is made possible by a high-quality differential GPS units mounted on the top of the pole and UAV. The rope is attached to a shock cord to reduce stress on the airframe imposed by the abrupt stop.



In 2009, Boeing and Insitu announced the NightEagle, a modified Block E ScanEagle with an infrared camera for night operations.[2]

Operational history

A ScanEagle is recovered at sea aboard the destroyer USS Oscar Austin

The ScanEagle entered service with the U.S. Navy in 2005.[3] In addition to the United States military, the Australian Army also operates the ScanEagle UAV.[4] As well the Canadian Government announced in August 2008 that they would lease the ScanEagle for use of their military operations in Afghanistan. [5]

On 18 March 2008 Boeing, with ImSAR and Insitu successfully flight-tested a ScanEagle with a Nano-SAR radar mounted aboard. The Nano-SAR is the world's smallest Synthetic Aperture Radar, weighs two pounds and is roughly the size of a shoe box. It is designed to provide high quality real-time ground imaging through adverse weather conditions or other battlefield obscurants.[6]

A US Marine holds a ScanEagle in Iraq.

On 10 April 2009 a ScanEagle launched by the US Navy observed an escape attempt by Capt. Richard Phillips. Phillips, Captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, was held captive by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean after a failed hijack attempt.[7]



  1. ^ "Boeing ScanEagle achieves major flight milestones", Aerotech News & Review, November 23, 2006
  2. ^ Trimble, Steve (2009). Insitu Unveils NightEagle Unmanned Air System. Flight International. 12 Nov 2009.
  3. ^ "Boeing Awarded Navy Contract for ScanEagle Services". Boeing. 2008-06-06.  
  4. ^ Army Technology/, Defense Jobs of Australia
  5. ^ CBC News, Canadian military acquiring new helicopters, drones
  6. ^ Boeing Flight-Tests 2-Pound Imaging Radar Aboard ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft, Boeing, 18 March 2008.
  7. ^ Communication Breakdown? Navy Sees Capt., but Talks Reported Stalled, ABC News, 12 April 2009.

External links


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