Boeing-owned Insitu Inc. announced at EURONAVAL 2014 that it is about to begin promoting ScanEagle 2, an evolution of the mission-proven ScanEagle small, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft design. Insitu‘s ScanEagle 2 version looks very similar to the proven ScanEagle airframe. It has the same wingspan, the similar speed performance, and it reaches the same maximum altitude of 5,800m. But the new version features completely new design characteristics: a slightly enlarged fuselage; more powerful sensors; a fully digital video system delivering better image quality; a more robust navigation system; a new, more user-friendly Ground Control Station (GCS); and a new powerplant. According to Insitu’s President and CEO, Ryan Hartman, the latter is a development of the Australian manufacturer Orbital, representing the first reciprocating internal combustion propulsion system designed and manufactured specifically for SUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) class vehicles. Speaking with international defence correspondents in Paris on 28 October 2014, he described the new powerplant as a reliable engine, designated N20 for the heavy-fuel version and N21 for gasoline, which will cover an urgent requirement because “ScanEagle is being flown up to 16 hours with heavier and more expensive sensor payloads.“
The new engine enables ScanEagle 2 to maintain the endurance of its earlier cousin (16 hours), and it will be able to deliver extra electrical power (up to 210W) for operating the payloads during complex and lengthy reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Orbital’s powerplant is a two-stroke, single-cylinder engine that can run on JP-5 or JP-8 fuel. In-service ScanEagle aircraft carry an engine produced by Northwest UAV. Hartman confirmed, “the new engine will be introduced as a block upgrade to new-production aircraft“; more than dozens will be produced per year. However, Insitu will continue to support existing ScanEagle airframes equipped with Northwest UAV’s powerplant.
Key Enabler for Improved Commonality and Interoperability
At least seven customers selected ScanEagle for their naval/maritime mission requirements: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the UK. Other users that were named by Insitu include Iraq, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, and yet unnamed Gulf States countries.
Insitu’s next-generation ScanEagle can be employed for a wide range of surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the complex maritime combat environment; but, “it will not carry any weapons”, Hartman said. For intelligence-gathering missions, the nose bay of the ScanEagle 2 can house, similarly to earlier ScanEagle airframes, Hood Technologies’ dual-imager sensor system, a mid-wave IR (MWIR) detector and an EO imager covering the 0.4-1.0µm spectral range. The sensor package can also incorporate a laser rangefinder and IR marker. “ScanEagle 2 enables a high degree of commonality with other manned/unmanned systems thanks to an open architecture ground control system [GCS]”, said Hartman. Its air-to-ground communications system (very similar to the INTEGRATOR) can deliver direct payload communications up to 95km (51nm) from a GCS. “Up to 16 ScanEagle 2 airframes can be operated in a single mission simultaneously”, Hartman noted. Improved commonality will result in lower training, hardware, and life-cycle costs, making the unmanned aircraft suited for missions undertaken by civil/commercial users.
Although EO/IR sensors have been the predominant payload fielded on unmanned aircraft to date, the nature of ISR/C4ISR/C4ISTAR is resulting in a greater emphasis on miniaturised radars. The NanoSAR sensor, which is carried by in-service ScanEagle UAS or can be adapted to Insitu’s 61kg INTEGRATOR system, weighs only 1kg and is in the size of a shoebox. Insitu told in Paris that it will continue to cooperate with ImSAR, manufacturer of the NanoSAR sensor, to also integrate the highly miniaturised sensor into the ScanEagle 2 airframe. The miniature radar sensor offers the unique capability to image and track moving objects in adverse conditions and reduced visibility.
Insitu also confirmed that a submarine-launched variant of the ScanEagle has been taken into consideration to ensure information superiority at sea.
|In the new powerplant of the ScanEagle 2, the lower-volatility fuel enters the cylinder more finely atomised and vaporises more quickly to achieve the same or better combustion as gasoline.|