• ScanEagle UAS ready to launch for a night sortie. Credit: RAN (LEUT Marcelo Lagos)
    ScanEagle UAS ready to launch for a night sortie. Credit: RAN (LEUT Marcelo Lagos)

Natalie Staples via Navy Daily

Navy's Unmanned Aircraft System Unit achieved a significant milestone in late March, completing the first of class flight trial for the ScanEagle.

The fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system which sends video and telemetry to its control station in near real time to fulfil its primary roles of surveillance and reconnaissance. It can be configured with various sensors and propulsion modules and has an operating range of up to 200 kilometres  and endurance in excess of 12 hours.

The Aviation Maintenance and Flight Trails Unit conducted the trial onboard HMAS Choules, assessing all facets of unmanned aircraft systems operation in an embarked setting.

ScanEagle Detachment Commander Lieutenant Commander Matt Hyam said the trial validated the systems operating limits and allowed personnel to gain their maritime qualifications.

“Over the two weeks on Choules, ScanEagle conducted 26.1 hours of embarked flight operations during the trial, spread amongst eight sorties," he said.

"This allowed us to validate operating limits for Choules and gather information to inform to future acquisition projects."

The unmanned aircraft system consists of a mission control station, catapult launcher, recovery system and multiple unmanned aircraft. The standard Navy crew model is an air vehicle operator, mission commander and ground crew. In what marks a significant change in the Fleet Air Arm, the unmanned aircraft is ‘flown’ by non-commissioned crew, with airspace and mission control provided by aircrew officers.

“Small tactical unmanned aircraft systems will have a key role in the future fleet and provide products to end users such as Principal Warfare Officers that will enhance the maritime operating picture without risking high value assets and personnel in manned aircraft,” LCDR Hyam said.

“The trial is the culmination of two years of experimentation and is a significant step forward for Navy."

This article first appeared in Navy Daily. The author is the primary public affairs contact for media at Fleet Command.  

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