February 2, 2006:
A UAV based on the tilt rotor V22 has made its first flight. Called the Eagle Eye, this UAV is designed for use from ships. The first customer is the U.S. Coast Guard, which is buying 69 of them, to operate off 46 ships. The manufacturer (a consortium of Bell and Boeing) is also offering the vehicle to the U.S. Navy, as well as Britain and France. The Eagle Eye weighs 1.2 tons, is 18 feet long and has a 24 foot wingspan. Top speed is 400 kilometers an hour, and maximum endurance is six hours. It has a range of 1,500 kilometers from the ship that launched it. Each Eagle Eye costs about $12 million (or some $14 million when you include control and support equipment.) What sold the Eagle Eye to the Coast Guard was the ability of the Eagle Eye to get to a distant location quickly, and then stay there for several hours. This is useful if chasing down smugglers or other suspicious ships. Development of the Eagle Eye began in 1998. The first one is expected to enter service next year. One potential problem is the complexity of the tilt rotor mechanism, which has delayed development of the V22.