CANBERRA, Australia, July 20 (UPI) -- Insitu Pacific will install and run several of its ScanEagle unmanned aircraft vehicle systems on Australian navy frigates starting in September.
Insitu Pacific, the Australian affiliate of Boeing's Insitu Inc., said the naval installations expand a similar contract with the army for land-launched ScanEagle systems.
"These trials will enable the navy to examine the issues affecting an embarked UAS capability and to determine the installation requirements on board our vessels," the navy's development project manager Lt. Cmdr. Bob Ferry said.
"The navy's endorsed aviation vision, NA2020, is to have a UAS-dedicated unit by 2020 and these UAS trials are an important step toward achieving that vision."
"The Australian army has successfully operated ScanEagle for more than 45,000 hours in support of land operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," Insitu Pacific Managing Director Andrew Duggan said.
"Insitu Pacific now looks forward to showing the true versatility and effectiveness of this system as a proven maritime capability in support of the navy," said Duggan.
Insitu Pacific, with headquarters in Queensland, said their ScanEagle is the only fixed-wing UAV operating from ship and has accumulated more than 25,000 ship-borne flight hours globally.
"It also has the advantage of not requiring the use of a helicopter deck," a statement from Insitu said.
"This is critical on frigates and smaller combatants where there is often only space to embark and operate one rotary wing platform at a time."
ScanEagle systems have been involved in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and ship-launched littoral surveillance operations during the Libyan conflict in 2011.
Insitu Inc. is located in Bingen, Wash., and is wholly owned by The Boeing Co. Insitu's systems have accumulated nearly 616,000 combat flight hours and 68,000 sorties.
The low-cost, long-endurance ScanEagle first flew in 2002 and has been used by the U.S. Navy since 2005.
It was used notably during the rescue operation of Richard Phillips, who had been captured by pirates in April 2009.
A ScanEagle was launched from the USS Bainbridge, which was sent in search of the pirates off the northern coast of Somalia.
Phillips, an American, was taken hostage when pirates boarded his vessel, the cargo ship Maersk Alabama -- a first pirate boarding for a U.S. flagged vessel in the area.
The ship conducted surveillance of the northern Somali coast with a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle providing intelligence on pirate camps and pirated vessels, a report by The Navy Times said at the time.
U.S. Navy SEALs, operating off the Bainbridge, captured one pirate and killed three others during the rescue of Phillips.