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Insitu is introducing a couple of new improvements for its SceanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that should significantly bolster its maritime surveillance capabilities general performance both on water and on land.

The Visual Detection and Ranging (ViDAR) sensor is designed for broad-area maritime surveillance and solves an old problem for drones at sea. Traditional electro-optical and infrared sensors tend to search for item with a “soda straw” aperture, says Don Williamson, Insitu’s vice president for the ScanEagle product line.

The new ViDAR sensor blows them all out of the water. It can scan 160 degrees and go through every pixel to differentiate between water and non-water. Whenever the camera finds non-aqueous objects, it sends a picture to the operator, who can then zoom in to get a better look.

The ViDAR package can see a target some 16 km away and scan through 33669 square kilometres in a single mission.

The other exciting development is Insitu’s new Flying, Launch and Recovery System (FLARES). To put it simply, FLARES is a UAV that launches the ScanEagle. Droneception, anyone?

The ScanEagle is a catapult-launched drone. To bring it back down, the UAV is captured when its wingtip touches a skyhook. It’s a relatively compact system, but it’s not ideal for all environments. Trees and other obstacles can interfere with the launch. FLARES solves this problem by connecting the ScanEagle to a rotary-wing UAV that can take off vertically to release it when they clear the skyline.

Here is how it used to look:

For recovery, an operator attaches a rope to FLARES, which then flies up and simulates a skyhook in which the ScanEagle catches. This is how it looks now: