LONDON, June 23 (UPI) -- Britain's Royal Navy has begun flying a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle in the Arabian Gulf, launching it from the deck of a frigate.
The aircraft, launched by catapult, is used for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. It is controlled by pilots and a specialist team aboard the frigate HMS Somerset.
"This is the first time we have operated an unmanned air system on maritime operations, heralding a new era of aviation and intelligence-gathering in the Royal Navy," said Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. "ScanEagle will play a crucial role in operations and humanitarian missions not only in the Gulf but also on Royal Navy vessels right across the globe, further underlining our commitment to invest in innovative capabilities."
Britain had ordered the UAV seven months ago from Boeing Defense UK.
ScanEagle is made by Insitu, a Boeing company. It is 5.1 feet to 5.6 feet long, has a cruise speed of 69 mph and a flight endurance of more than 24 hours.
"ScanEagle provides us with a game-changing, persistent surveillance and reconnaissance capability, supplementing our Lynx aircraft so that it can be held for higher priority missions," said the commander of HMS Somerset, Cmdr. Mike Smith.
"The ability to fly ScanEagle for extremely long periods of time extends the eyes and ears of the ship way beyond that we can currently achieve."