Warplanes: January 30, 2005


U.S. Marines in Iraq have had much success with yet another recently developed, low cost ($100,000 per system), UAV. The 40 pound Scan Eagle only has a seven pound payload. But with smaller, cheaper and more effective cameras and electronics, it can carry a vidcam capable of clearly seeing people on the ground, and whether or not they are carrying weapons. The Scan Eagle can stay in the air for 19 hours using only 1.5 gallons of gasoline. It can carry a day, or night vision, stabilized (the image remains locked on the same area, even if the UAV is being buffeted by wind) camera. Using GPS, the UAV can either fly a pre-programmed route, or proceed under operator control. The UAV is launched via a pneumatic catapult, and lands via a fifty foot pole and a skyhook system. It has a top speed of 93 kilometers an hour. Development began in 2002, and it entered service in February 2003. Scan Eagle operates from ships as well. The marines have one or more Scan Eagles operating over combat zones, most of the time, to better enable commanders to see where friendly and enemy troops are. The real time images are sent to a commanders laptop, or a large screen LCD. Enemy fighters try to avoid the Scan Eagle by always moving under cover. But this is not always possible, and simply makes their movements more difficult. For marines, having something like Scan Eagle overhead has changed the way battles are fought. Giving commanders a full time "God's Eye View" of the combat area provides the marines with a much better idea of who is where and doing what. Enemy ambushes are much more difficult to set up, and enemy troops get found, and killed, much more quickly. 


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