Royal Australian Navy’s ScanEagle UAV completes first flight

The Royal Australian Navy’s division for unmanned aircraft systems recently achieved a milestone as their ScanEagle UAV completed the first of class flight trial in late March.

During the trials, which were conducted onboard HMAS Choules, the Aviation Maintenance and Flight Trails Unit assessed all facets of unmanned aircraft systems operation in an embarked setting.

The fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system sends video and telemetry to its control station in near real time to fulfill its primary roles of surveillance and reconnaissance.

According to the navy, it can be configured with various sensors and propulsion modules and has an operating range of up to 200km and endurance in excess of 12 hours.

ScanEagle Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Commander Matt Hyam said the trial validated the systems operating limits and allowed personnel to gain their maritime qualifications.

“Over the two weeks on Choules, ScanEagle conducted 26.1 hours of embarked flight operations during the trial, spread amongst eight sorties,” he said.

“This allowed us to validate operating limits for Choules and gather information to inform to future acquisition projects.”

The unmanned aircraft system consists of a mission control station, catapult launcher, recovery system and multiple unmanned aircraft. The standard Navy crew model is an air vehicle operator, mission commander and ground crew. In what marks a significant change in the Fleet Air Arm, the unmanned aircraft is ‘flown’ by non-commissioned crew, with airspace and mission control provided by aircrew officers.

“Small tactical unmanned aircraft systems will have a key role in the future fleet and provide products to end users such as Principal Warfare Officers that will enhance the maritime operating picture without risking high value assets and personnel in manned aircraft,” Lieutenant Commander Hyam said.