The Royal Navy's Getting In On the Drone Game Too

By Chris Mills on at

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]