Since its first flight in June 2002 and introduction to the US Navy in 2005, the ScanEagle UAV developed by Boeing subsidiary Insitu has received a steady stream of improvements, including a short-wave infrared (SWIR) camera and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and clocked up over 800,000 combat flight hours over land and sea. Now Insitu has announced the next generation of the platform in the form of the ScanEagle 2.
Building on its experience with the ScanEagle, the ScanEagle 2 has the same 10.2 ft (3.1 m) wingspan as its predecessor, but is heavier, with an empty weight of 41.8 lb (19 kg) compared to the original's 30.9 to 39.68 lb (14 to 18 kg). However, the ScanEagle 2 boasts a slightly greater payload capacity of 7.7 lb (3.5 kg) to the ScanEagle's 7.5 lb (3.4 kg).
This is partly due to the introduction of a reciprocating internal combustion engine propulsion system that the company says is the first of its kind developed specifically for small unmanned aircraft system class vehicles and helps make the aircraft more affordable and reliable – important attributes as Insitu looks to expand its market beyond the military. The system is modular, with variants fueled by gasoline or heavy fuels (JP-5 or JP-8).
"ScanEagle 2 will shepherd us into the next two decades as we focus on reliability and affordability and enter the civil/commercial market," said Insitu president and CEO, Ryan M. Hartman. "And as ScanEagle has always done, ScanEagle 2 will provide the capability our warfighters have come to expect from Insitu – yet more affordable and more capable."
The ScanEagle 2 shares many of the same capabilities as its predecessor, including operation ceiling – 19,500 ft (5,950 m) – maximum horizontal speed – 80 knots (92 mph, 148 km/h) – and cruise speed – 50 to 60 knots (58 to 69 mph, 93 to 111 km/h). However, endurance takes a hit with the ScanEagle able to stay aloft for over 24 hours, whereas the ScanEagle 2 will start coming back to Earth in around 16 hours.
One of the ScanEagle 2's biggest advantages is its ability to provide 100 to 150 W (depending on engine type) of power to on-board payloads, outdoing the 60 W the ScanEagle can deliver. This, coupled with an Ethernet-based architecture and reduction in Electronic Magnetic Interference (EMI), allows the integration of more sophisticated and electronically sensitive payloads.
Thanks to its open-architecture ground control system, the ScanEagle 2 boasts compatibility with many existing unmanned systems, while its launch-and-recovery system is the same used by Insitu UAV stablemate, the Integrator. The company has also improved the aircraft's image capture capabilities with a fully digital video system.
Insitu revealed the ScanEagle 2 at the Euronaval Exhibition and Conference in Paris this week.