Warplanes: ScanEagle Soars


April 11,2008: For the past four years, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been using a lightweight UAV, equipped with high resolution day and night video cameras, that was originally designed for finding schools of tuna for fishing boats. Over the last five years, these Scan Eagle UAVs [PHOTO] have spent over 50,000 hours in the air, and flown nearly 5,000 sorties. About two thirds of this was for U.S. Marine Corps units.

The ScanEagle UAV weighs 40 pounds, has a ten foot wingspan and uses a new video technology (PixonVision), that provides greater resolution than other video cameras. This makes it easier for the UAV, flying along roads frequently used by American troops, to spot possible bombs (which can then be more closely checked out by engineer teams stationed along these roads for that purpose.) The ScanEagle was also used for spotting snipers, and enemy gunmen in general.

The ScanEagle can stay in the air for up to 15 hours per flight, and fly as high as 16,000 feet. But for the road patrol work, it will fly much lower. The aircraft carries an optical system that is stabilized to keep the cameras focused on an object while the UAV moves. The ScanEagle is launched from a catapult and landed via a wing hook that catches a rope hanging from a fifty foot pole. The marines tried out ScanEagle four years ago, and liked it well enough to begin using it regularly. Australian troops also use the system. Each ScanEagle costs about $100,000.




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