Boeing Moves Forward in the Unmanned Sector

The Wave Glider
The Wave Glider unmanned underwater vehicle is one of several products which Boeing supports in the uninhabited domain. (Boeing)

Boeing’s defence, space and security division is expanding its footprint in the unmanned systems domain.

The firm told that: “autonomous systems are one of Boeing’s focus areas for business growth and market leadership.” With regard to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS), Boeing subsidiary Insitu continues to offer a range of tactical UAVs. Insitu was recently named one of the recipients for two US Department of Defence contracts for the Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft System-III and the Close Range Unmanned Aircraft System competitions. Meanwhile, Boeing and Insitu continue to progress demonstrations of the ScanEagle UAV’s Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) capability involving this aircraft, and the firm’s AH-64E Guardian attack helicopter: “This capability gives new and existing ScanEagle and AH-64E customers the ability to conduct MUM-T from land or sea-based multi-domain launch and recovery locations/hubs.”

With regard to the maritime domain, Boeing’s Echo Voyager Unmanned Underwater Vehicle is said to be a fully autonomous UUV requiring no support vessel, reducing operating costs and enabling work at sea for months before returning to port: “(The) Echo Voyager is completing the first phase of ocean testing and will be at Boeing’s Huntington Beach, California facility for planned inspections and maintenance before returning to sea for additional operations later this year,” the company added.

In late 2016, Boeing acquired Liquid Robotics, manufacturer of the Wave Glider autonomous surface vessel and its derivative, the SHARC (Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft). Boeing noted that: “This unique vehicle … is solar and wave-powered and can be used for persistent maritime observation, data collection and acoustic monitoring for many months, up to a year, depending on conditions.” Boeing and Liquid Robotics are now developing advanced defence payloads for the SHARC to address critical missions like persistent anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance gathering.

by Marty Kauchak