Royal Australian Navy tests ScanEagle
A team from the Royal Australian Navy’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) unit has been deployed to Christmas Island to test the limits of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAS, the navy announced on 3 October.
The six-member detachment is operating from the island’s aerodrome to test its ability to conduct long term UAS operations without support. The deployment and location have enabled offshore flights of up to ten hours duration.
ScanEagle has been equipped with a Visual Detection and Ranging (ViDAR) payload, an airborne wide area maritime search and surveillance sensor.
Developed by Sentient Vision Systems, ViDAR uses a camera to scan and record a 180-degree view and identify anomalies through a complex software programme. Operators are alerted to potential targets in real time, to allow closer inspection to be undertaken using the ScanEagle’s more powerful electro-optical camera.
The deployment has helped the navy consolidate operator training and gather test data and experience in an operational-like environment. The trial represents the first time an all-navy UAS crew has conducted all aspects of the set-up, testing and validation flights without support of the manufacturer.
The team had achieved around 82 flight hours, with over 12 hours of specific ViDAR operation, by the fourth week of the three month deployment. The trial is scheduled to end in November and will help inform the use of ViDAR at sea early in 2017.
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