Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

UAV flights in Scotland 2003-2013

I received an odd nudge to go look at Hansard for July 18, 2013, “You might see something interesting.”

Being a glutton for punishment, I duly trawled through a number of pages, fought off the urge to fall asleep, then came across a question on UAVs, which I guess was where I was supposed to look.

The question was asked of the UK, but this includes Scotland, so we got our little bit of info from the same pot:

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham of 15 May 2013, Official Report, column 221W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, on how many occasions flights of unmanned aerial vehicles have taken place in each of his Department’s reserved airspace areas within the UK in each of the last 10 years; what the purpose of each such flight was; and what type of unmanned aerial vehicle was flown on each such occasion. [R] [166283]

The reply was fairly comprehensive, as follows (I’ve highlighted the relevant line):

Mr Robathan: Available information on the number and location of flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), either on the military register or operating under a military flight test permit, in each of the last 10 years, is provided in the following table:

UAV type Number of flights Location Purpose
2003-06 Phoenix (1) (1) (1)
2004 Buster (2) Larkhill Trials
2006 Scan Eagle 22 Hebrides Range Capability Demonstration
2009 Desert Hawk III 126 Salisbury Plain Trials and Training
2010 Desert Hawk III 184 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training and conversion to Role
Watchkeeper 11 West Wales Airport Trials
2011 Desert Hawk III 564 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 83 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 3 Thorney Island Training
2012 Desert Hawk III 1,180 Salisbury Plain Training
Watchkeeper 129 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 11 Thorney Island Training
Scan Eagle 5 South Coast Exercise Area Trials
2013 Desert Hawk III 555 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 6 West Wales Airport French Army Training
Watchkeeper 77 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Black Hornet (3)n/a Lydd Camp, Lossiemouth, Salisbury Plain(4) Training

(1) The Phoenix Unmanned Air System, which retired from service in 2006, was flown in UK airspace. Records of the number, location and purpose of Phoenix sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (2) Records of the number of Buster sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (3) Because of the way Black Hornet is used the number of sorties and flying hours are not recorded. (4) The locations identified are the primary areas in which Black Hornet has been operated. Because of the weight and size of the air vehicle and the height at which it operates, under Military Aviation Authority regulations there is no requirement to limit flights to segregated airspace.

Via House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 18 July 2013 (pt 0007)

Of 2,948 recorded flights (certain types were not recorded) , only 22 took place on the Hebrides Range, and those were class as Capability Demonstration flights.

ScanEagle

The UAV type is given as the Boeing ScanEagle (there is no space in the name, incorrectly shown in the Hansard table). The Royal Navy received its first unmanned ‘eye in the sky’ in a £30 million contract with Boeing to supply the ScanEagle reconnaissance aircraft. Built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Defence UK Limited, the ScanEagle is the first maritime-specific unmanned air system capability to be delivered in support of naval operations. The pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy, aboard frigate HMS Sutherland back in 2006.

ScanEagle has a wingspan of just over 3 metres (10 ft), a weight of 22 kg (48 lb), and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.

ScanEagle Launch

ScanEagle Launch – Boeing image via MoD web site

The UAV flies at about 60 knots and is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who plan its missions, control its flights, and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its sensors, which includes a video or infra-red camera. Data is transmitted to the team, including real-time high-resolution images, via a satellite link.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

It can remain airborne some 15 to 18 hours at distances of more than 70 miles from the mother ship. Boeing information on their web site indicates that later designs will substantially increase these figures.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

Once the mission has been completed, the UAV returns to the ship where it is captured by being flown into a cable hung vertically from an extendible arm, and is caught by hooks located at the end of each wing. It is then grappled by a recovery device and lifted on board.

ScanEagle Recovery

ScanEagle Recovery – Boeing image via MoD web site

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September 6, 2013 - Posted by | Aviation, military, Naval, Surveillance | , , , , ,

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