Boeing to pilot Navy's unmanned aircraft program

Boeing Co. will continue to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services for the Navy's unmanned aircraft program under a $65 million contract from the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md.

The contract, which will be directed by Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems unit in St. Louis, runs through May 2009 with options for extensions.

The ScanEagle is a low-cost, long-endurance unmanned vehicle that captures video images using electro-optical and infrared cameras. The aircraft is capable of flying above 16,000 feet and remaining over a battlefield for more than 20 hours. It is launched by a pneumatic catapult, flies preprogrammed or operator-initiated missions and is retrieved by hooking itself onto a rope suspended from a 50-foot tower.

ScanEagles entered Navy service in 2005 and have been deployed aboard 15 different vessels. They have also been used by sea and land detachments in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the world.

Insitu Inc., a developer of unmanned aircraft systems in Bingen, Wash., is partnering with Boeing to develop, market and support the ScanEagle program. In 1998, Insitu introduced the first unmanned aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean using only 1.5 gallons of fuel.

Boeing, of Chicago, ranks No. 2 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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