Never one to leave flying things to the likes of the Army and RAF, the Royal Navy's secured itself a bunch of drones for tracking pirates and fast-moving speedboats: the ScanEagle, a drone made by the Americans that sounds suspiciously like an anti-virus programme.
ScanEagle is a 22kg unarmed surveillance UAV, specifically designed for maritime patrol vessels. Under a £30 million deal, a contractor will provide and operate the drones for the Navy as an Urgent Operational Requirement. Scan Eagle can fly for around 15 hours, at a range of 70 miles from the mothership, speeding along at 60 knots.
Designed to help with anti-piracy missions and the increasing threat of attack by fast-moving small boats, the ScanEagle is meant to detect targets, and relay them back to the ship. To do so, it's furnished with infra-red and colour cameras, and also a tiny little radar -- apparently the world's smallest synthetic-apeture radar. Even better, all that stuff can get relayed back to the control centre in real time.
The diciest thing looks like the launch/recovery procedure (pictured above) -- it's shot off the ship on a catapult, and then recovered back by catching a wire dangled from the ship. Sounds pretty dangerous to me, but then again, the US Navy's been using the system since 2005, so I'd guess it's a well-proven bit of kit. [Inside Government]