The US Office of Naval Research-funded shipboard-capable compact launch and recovery system (CLRE) has successfully completed final flight testing in eastern Oregon.
The test demonstrated its ability to support both launch and recovery of the Insitu-built ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
CLRE has been designed to provide shipboard capability and small-scale solution to support operations of the unmanned surveillance aircraft.
ONR's air vehicle technology programme manager John Kinzer said: "It's more compact than other systems, so you can install it on a small special operations boat, or save additional space on a larger ship, since space is always at a premium on any vessel."
Using compressed-air launcher, the system can launch UAVs to perform transmission of real-time electro-optic and infrared (IR) imagery to a ground station for recording and analysis.
On completion of its mission, the UAV can be retrieved with rope suspended from the system's extendable mast and arms, which holds onto small hooks on the aircraft's wings.
CLRE launcher is compatible with all Scan Eagle UAV designs, including those equipped with an IR camera and can deliver similar rates of successful air vehicle recovery.
Smaller and lighter than the existing SuperWedge launcher and Skyhook recovery systems combined, the system can be folded up for storage once the mission is accomplished.
Modified versions of the ScanEagle are also being explored by the company to enable rapid deployment.
Designed to provide advanced capabilities for warfighter's real-time situational awareness and force protection information, the low-cost, long-endurance UAV is currently undergoing testing in trailer mounted to validate its ease of towing behind ground vehicles.
Jointly developed by Boeing and Insitu, the ScanEagle UAS can support special services operations, escort operations, protection of sea-lane and convoy, high-value and secure installations, as well as the relay of high-speed wireless voice, video and data communications.
Image: An Insitu/Boeing-built ScanEagle UAV being launched using pneumatic wedge catapult launcher. Photo: courtesy of Boeing.