Scaneagle, the Navy drone that patrols the waters of the Indian Ocean in search of pirates

The UAV has recently been modernized with new cameras

Original article on

Benjamín Carrasco | Sunday , September 3, 2023, 06:00

Since 2009, the Navy has maintained at least one ship permanently in the European Union ‘s Atalanta operation to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean. On deployments in this mission, Navy ships carry a helicopter on board – normally an AB212 – and the presence of the Scaneagle remotely manned aerial system is also common.

This drone has a range of 100 kilometers and an autonomy of more than 20 hours, which allows the ships’ patrol radius to be considerably expanded. The Scaneagle currently participates in this mission aboard the F-85 Navarra frigate , the penultimate of the Santa María class .

The Navy uses this RPAS primarily for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions. In Operation Atalanta , the UAV participates, for example, in escort missions for merchant ships belonging to the United Nations World Food Program ( WFP ).

Launch of a Scaneagle UAV in Operation Atalanta. Photo: Emad

The Scaneagle is in service with the Navy’s 11th Aircraft Squadron . Recently, the unit has started operation with a new digital version of this UAV from the American company Boeing Insitu . The system is made up of four aircraft and has encrypted communications and video, as well as a more resistant fuselage and an evolved power plant.

The Navy closed the purchase of this version in 2021, as published by . In parallel, it launched a program for the digitalization of the other three Scaneagle systems already in service in the Eleventh Squadron. These three systems arrived with the analog version along with a total of ten aircraft also in the analog configuration.

Each system is composed of a GCS control station , launch and recovery systems, control and communications antennas, plus aircraft that vary depending on the type of mission and its duration. In addition to operation Atalanta , the Scaneagle has been deployed in the Spanish mission in Iraq.

Launch occurs autonomously using a catapult launcher (no runway required) and is recovered via a patented SkyHook recovery system . The UAV can fly in demanding environments and supports a range of imaging settings that can be quickly modified, according to the manufacturer.

The Scaneagle aboard the frigate Navarra. Photo: Emad

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