From Dolphins to Destroyers: The ScanEagle UAV

ScanEagle 2

ScanEagle 2
(click to view full)

December 30/22: Production Insitu won a $19 million modification, which adds scope for the production and delivery of 10 RQ-21A air vehicles, two RQ-21A turrets, support equipment, spares, tools, and training in support of RQ-21A Blackjack and ScanEagle unmanned aircraft platforms for the Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington; and various locations outside the continental US, and is expected to be completed in June 2026.

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ScanEagle launch (click to view full) ScanEagle’s base Insight UAV platform was originally developed by Washington state’s Insitu, Inc. to track dolphins and tuna from fishing boats, in order to ensure that the fish you buy in supermarkets is “dolphin-safe”. It turns out that the same characteristics needed by fishing boats (able to handle salt water environments, low infrastructure launch and recovery, small size, 20-hour long endurance, automated flight patterns) are equally important for naval operations from larger vessels, and for battlefield surveillance. A partnership with Boeing took ScanEagle to market in those fields, and the USMC’s initial buy in 2004 was the beginning of a market-leading position in its niche. This article covers recent developments with the ScanEagle UAV system, which is quickly evolving into a mainstay with the US Navy and its allies. Incumbency doesn’t last long in the fast-changing world of UAVs, though. Insitu’s own RQ-21 Integrator is looking to push the ScanEagle aside, and new multiple-award contracts in the USA are creating opportunities for other competitors. Can Insitu’s original stay strong? The ScanEagle Family ScanEagle BCAS launch (click for alternate view) The ScanEagle is solidly based on Insitu’s original “Insight” platform, with different variants distinguished by […]

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