2019 Surface Navy Association National Symposium
Insitu (a Boeing company) finds itself with the pleasant challenge of managing an ever-expanding portfolio in the maritime and adjacent expeditionary warfare sectors. In one instance, the Bingen, Washington-based company is preparing to provide SCANEAGLE small, long-endurance, low-altitude unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and complementary small UAS (sUAS) ISR services aboard the entire US Coast Guard National Security Cutter fleet. The scope of this contract, in part, requires, installation and deployment of sUAS for 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period.
Don Williamson, Vice President and General Manager, for Insitu Defense, told MONCh that, “we have been supporting USCG Cutter Stratton (WMSL-752) for a little over the last two years and that programme has been going very well.”
While Insitu has also introduced the INTEGRATOR Extended Range and SCANEAGLE 3 UASs in the last 11 months, it is concurrently focused like a laser on improving the technology baseline of its entire UAS defence business. At one level, “the direction we are heading is a ‘modular approach’ for our aircraft,” the industry expert said and further explained, that while Insitu has a very significant customer base in its SCANEAGLE platform, “we’ll be continuing to support those customers. SCANEAGLE3 will fit quite nicely between size, weight and power of a SCANEAGLE [DoD Group 2] and our INTEGRATOR and BLACKJACK [DoD Group 3]. In addition to bringing new technology to the field, we’re looking for ways to have common interfaces so that our customers can use the exact, same equipment across the platforms.”
The implications are significant: as Insitu invests in new onboard cameras and turrets, its business model is such, that to the degree it is possible, those cameras and turrets will be able to fly on multiple Insitu aircraft variants. And because all of the aircraft will have a common operating system, “at the end of the day the most expensive part is training people how to fly them. As they will all use our ICOMC2 [Insitu Common Open Mission Management Command and Control] operator interface, it really allows the customer to have the flexibility to have a common infrastructure in their ground control station, launcher and SkyHook, and then, whether it is a SCANEAGLE, SCAEAGLE3, INTEGRATOR or BLACKJACK, the way the aircraft operates is almost identical,” Mr Williamson emphasised.
Almost without exception, Insitu’s current defence customers are looking for an onboard multi-intelligence capability. This may typically include the ability to merge full motion video (FMV) with a secondary collection payload. “This is certainly true of our US DoD customers. And almost exclusively, as we look to the future, it’s all about ‘multi-end capability.’ This is generally the ability to geo-locate and then cross-reference, and potentially surveil with the FMV in the very small classes of UAVs. This is where the field is going,” Mr Williamson observed and said this is particularly true of Insitu’s SCANEAGLE and INTEGRATOR and BLACKJACK UAS.
Insitu’s business model will continue to include best-of-breed suppliers from the US and beyond, and in the defence and commercial sectors. While Orbital Australia Pty Ltd supplies UAS engines, another key payload provider includes Hood Technology (Hood River, Oregon) for FMV sensors. Other differentiating capabilities Insitu is employing beyond the traditional signals intelligence payload, include more commercial-leaning systems, including wide-area motion imagery-like sensors (from Logos Technologies, Fairfax, Virginia) and data links (supplied by Persistent Systems, New York, New York).
Also as SNA convenes, Insitu’s BLACKJACK UAS are on their sixth major deployment with a US Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Unit, with other vehicles of the class having been delivered to Canada and Poland through US Foreign Military Sales. Further, the first three INTEGRATOR UASs are in-country in the Netherlands, being prepared to support that nation’s Short Range Tactical UAV programme. While Insitu cannot reveal other specific, prospective naval and coast guard customers in its increasingly active international business development efforts, Mr Williamson noted: “we see the biggest demand signal in the Middle East, Europe and Asia Pacific – those are our three primary areas of focus for in the maritime domain.”
For the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, MONCh readers should be attentive to a number of Insitu’s efforts including the further development and maturation of INTEGRATOR ER. “We think there is opportunity for Insitu to do some of the work done by larger Group 5 UAVs down into the Group 3 arena – that is a major area of our focus. We’ll continue to work in this area,” Mr Williamson concluded.