Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Washington company wins $83 million contract for unmanned U.S. spy plane support services

by Matt Rosenberg May 27th, 2011

SUMMARY: Insitu, Inc. of Bingen, Wash. yesterday won an $83.7 million contract to provide operations and maintenance support for the U.S. military’s ScanEagle unmanned aerial surveillance systems used by the Navy and Marines to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against Somali pirates. Earlier, Insitu and its parent company Boeing also developed ScanEagle. Civilian applications of the system may ensue in coming years, if a safety rules framework is adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Early tests and research have shown ScanEagle can be used to count whale populations, monitor river flooding and aid in back country rescue.

BACKGROUND:

  • In cooperation with its parent company Boeing, Insitu developed an unmanned aerial reconnaissance system named ScanEagle. It is widely used by the U.S. military, and has also been deployed in very limited, early-test civilian applications.
  • Resembling a large model airplane, ScanEagle has infra-red imaging capabilities and according to Insitu, is able “to capture high quality visual data” with “high levels of stealth.” ScanEagle has been used for surveillance support for U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also in U.S. operations against Somali pirates. ScanEagle has been utilized in efforts to count whale populations (see p. 15 here), and in a test case to monitor potential river flooding conditions in North Dakota.
  • Another type of unmanned aircraft being used by the U.S. military are drones capable of destroying ground targets. Experts predict increasing use of unmanned aircraft by the military; and perhaps eventually more widely for civilian purposes as well. This would depend on issuance and approval of new rules by the Federal Aviation Administration, to ensure unmanned aircraft don’t compromise the safety of manned craft in U.S. airspace.
  • Earlier this month Christopher Burger, of Ritzville, Wash.; Jeremy Duke of Everett, Wash.; and Alexander Gustafson, of Vashon Island, Wash. were among a group of five students in the University of North Dakota’s aerospace program who were the first in the nation to receive degrees in unmanned aircraft operations, as the Bismark Tribune reported. Their training included use of the ScanEagle system, according to an Insitu spokesperson.

KEY LINK: Department of Defense contract announcements, May 26, 2011

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Bingen, Wash.-based Insitu, Inc, a wholly-owned Boeing subsidiary, yesterday won from the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command an $83.7 million contract to provide operations and maintenance support for the U.S. government’s ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems.
  • Insitu will provide training courses for system pilots, maintenance and operations, mission coordinator and payload operator. The company will also provide multiple kits for sustainment, plus payload and engine module kits, and spare parts.
  • The work will be done in Bingen, Wash. and is due for completion in May, 2012. The contracting agency is the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md.

UPDATE, May 31, 2011: DoD today announced that InSitu is also being awarded a $45.9 million contract for deployment services and flight hours supporting the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system including infra-red imagery in support of U.S. Marine Corps operations in Afghanistan.

Matt Rosenberg is founder and editor of Public Data Ferret, a project of the non-profit Public Eye Northwest.

ScanEagle ready for launch/Insitu Inc.

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