A Closer Look At The Surveillance Drone Iran Claims To Have Captured


Photo: Robert Johnson — BI Military & DefenseB

Iran today claimed to have captured another U.S. drone. Whether or not that’s accurate remains to be seen, but what is true is that the ScanEagle drone was originally designed to help fisherman look for fish. It’s low cost, portable, long-endurance, and very effective for maritime surveillance.Able to fly over 20 hours on about one gallon of fuel, the ScanEagle is a key reconnaissance tool for U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf.

When Business Insider was aboard the USS Ponce off the coast of Iran in September for the international mine clearing exercises, the ship deployed a ScanEagle each morning and allowed us to document the process.

If Iran’s claims today are true and it did capture a ScanEagle, it might be most interested in its new cameras and video system that allow the drone to relay what it sees in vivid detail.

Here on the USS Ponce not far from the coast of Iran, the ScanEagle gets set up very early every day

The drone's 'SuperWedge' launcher is powered by pressurised air and faces off the deck toward shore — into the wind

While waiting for the winds to shift the system powers up enough pressure to launch

Ground crew does a final check of the wind speed

And the launch switch is activated

From about 20 fet away

That red cord is pulled to disengage the lock

The operators pick this helicopter crew person to launch the drone

She pushes the button

And with barely a sound the ScanEagle is punched into the air

travelling so fast it's out of sight within seconds

The operators do a quick check of the box...

...Before packing up the launch unit and rolling it back to storage

The drone is operated from this ConEx on the upper deck of the Ponce

But we're not allowed in

In the evening, when the drone returns to the ship it's guided in by onboard GPS to within inches of that cable

And the tip of its wing snags like this — on what's called the SkyHook — and that's how it comes back to earth

And then the whole operation begins again the following day

The USS Ponce relies heavily on the ScanEagle

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