Surveillance Aircraft ID

Boeing’s Best-Selling Aircraft Fits on Your Shoulder

  • By Jason Paur Email Author
  • August 14, 2009  | 
  • 2:22 am  | 
  • Categories: Air Travel


The relatively tiny Scan Eagle family of UAVs may not bring in big bucks for Boeing, but they’re the best-selling aircraft in the aerospace giant’s fleet.

The ubiquitous 737 airliner was for many years Boeing’s biggest seller, with more than 30 rolling off the assembly line at the south end of Lake Washington east of Seattle every month. But with the military expanding UAV operations at a rapid pace, unmanned aerial vehicles of all sizes are selling like hotcakes. Boeing is building more than 50 Scan Eagle UAVs a month.

The Scan Eagle was developed by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, which has been producing unmanned aircraft systems since 1994. The company made aviation history in 1998 when it followed Charles Lindbergh’s example by making the first transatlantic flight with a UAV. The company has produced more than 1,000 robotic aircraft that have flown more than 200,000 hours in Iraq and Afghanistan and performed weather and marine reconnaissance missions around the world.

The Lilliputian aircraft can be carried in a vehicle or boat and launched just about anywhere. Its compact size makes it a favorite of a wide range of customers from special forces to weather researchers.


The 44 pound airplane is equipped with high-resolution electro-optical and infrared scanning capabilities allowing it to perform day and night. With a wingspan of just over 10 feet and a 2-horsepower engine, the Scan Eagle can fly for more than 24 hours at a time.

Aviation Week reports Boeing’s production rate of the Scan Eagle stands at more than 50 per month. But before anybody thinks the nation’s largest exporter is going to ditch the commercial market — which is in the dumps these days — for model airplanes on steroids, keep in mind that the Scan Eagle doesn’t account for much on the bottom line. Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says acquiring the UAV business is part of a strategy by Boeing to become a more-complete defense contractor.

“Boeing has been promoting itself as a net-centric player, somebody who is more about network capabilities rather than standalone platforms,” Aboulafia told

The Scan Eagle costs around $100,000 each, so the revenue they’ve generated so far doesn’t quite add up to half that of a single 777 airliner. But the UAV market is growing faster than manufacturers can keep up with. While planes such as the Predator or Global Hawk might get all of the attention, the smaller versions are also gaining popularity in both military and civilian roles because of their relatively low cost.

“In a lot of ways small UAVs have just as much in common with expendable munitions than they do with aircraft” Aboulafia says. “These things have a lot in common with systems that simply blow up that they’ve made thousands of per year.”

Thinking of many of the remote control airplanes we saw turn into piles of balsa kindling during our childhood, that seems like a fair comparison.

Photos: Insitu





A Scan Eagle is launched from a ship for a maritime mission.

The DHS Snoop Balloon
Geoff Nixon,,  August 15, 2009

It’s not often that a balloon makes people feel uncomfortable.

But the inflatable aircraft that has been floating above the St. Clair River in recent weeks, across the border from Sarnia, Ont., is no ordinary balloon.

Officially, the “balloon” is called an Aerostat. It’s a Helium-inflated aircraft that looks like a flying wing, and had been floating between 150 and 300 metres above the ground in Port Huron, Mich., since the end of last month, until a storm damaged its fabric and it was taken down for repairs.

The company that owns it, Sierra Nevada Corporation, reportedly wants to test out the new technology to see if it can sell it to U.S. Homeland Security for use as a patrolling device.

But Bradley M. Lott, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general who is running the Aerostat testing in Port Huron, said the company’s plan is to see what the aircraft can do and how it can be used in a variety of situations — including for use in rescue operations after natural disasters or airline accidents.

Major General Bradley M. Lott USMC (ret). CEO and Owner of True North Logistics.

Lott said the Aerostat was designed by the Colorado-based Global Near Space Systems, and built by Delaware’s ILC Dover — the company that built and designed the space suits that NASA astronauts used when walking on the Moon in 1969.

The Aerostat has to follow Federal Aviation Administration flight rules and must be pulled down out of the sky each night at 11:30 p.m. It is permitted to go back up at 6:30 a.m.

The device carries a “technologically-advanced payload,” Lott said, which could be configured to carry a camera, communications equipment or other materials.

But that payload — and the powerful camera that has been training its eye on the St. Clair River while the Aerostat has being tested — is exactly the problem issue for Sarnia residents who already put with surveillance from helicopters, boats, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other patrols along the Ontario-Michigan border. Not to mention the flying drones that will start patrolling the border next year.

“It’s unbelievable that they think they need this on a friendly nation’s border,” said Adam Bush, a 24-year-old Sarnia resident who opposes the Aerostat’s presence on the other side of the river.

But it goes beyond the issue of U.S. defence concerns for many Sarnia residents, who say they simply do not want to be spied upon — or potentially be spied upon — by cameras from across the border.

The Aerostat balloon, which is testing its high tech camera, is seen above the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ont.

Having a camera peering into Sarnia is “a clear violation of our privacy and our sovereignty,” said Mayor Mike Bradley, when explaining the issue over the phone to

“It’s extremely creepy,” said Bush, who has helped organize a cheeky protest against the Aerostat, aptly named “Moon the Balloon.”

Lott said the Aerostat is, in fact, not spying on anybody and is simply tracking the river, while it is being tested.

Bradley, however, is additionally upset that no one in Sarnia was consulted as to whether the city wanted the Aerostat flying over its horizon.

He’s even written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though Bradley said he has not yet received a response about the Aerostat issue.

Lott said he has tried to reach out to Bradley about his concerns — a gesture which the Sarnia mayor acknowledges, though he does not believe that the Aerostat is keeping its camera trained solely on the St. Clair River.

“No one here is buying the argument that they are not looking at buildings,” Bradley said.

Lott insists that the Aerostat is being governed by the “ethical behaviour of an ethical company” and he said Sierra Nevada Corp. is trying to “be as open as we can be” about their operations, inviting TV crews to check out the aircraft and its payload up-close.

But the controversy has shown no signs of deflating in Sarnia.

On Saturday evening, Bush will head down to the Sarnia waterfront to help lead Moon the Balloon, knowing full well that the Aerostat will not be in the sky.

Sarnia resident Adam Bush, 24, helped organize the ‘Moon the Balloon’ protest taking place in Sarnia’s Centennial Park on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009.

More than 1,400 people have signed up for the protest on a Facebook page, though Bush acknowledges he is not sure how many of them will actually show up.

Around 5 p.m., they will form a line, turn their backs to the U.S. border, drop their drawers, and point their rear ends at Michigan.

Bradley said he will not be attending, though he knows how upset Sarnia residents are about the issue.

“I would say it has engaged the public here,” he said.

Aerial Surveillance Systems, Inc. (ASSI) manufactures the SkyEye 350, the most capable, low-cost, multi-role, special missions Aerial Surveillance Platform (ASP) in the world.

King Air 350 on runway

SkyEye 350 Product Video

ASSI Press Release: Stevens Aviation named as MRO modification and integration partner and FLIR Systems, Inc. is named as the sensor suite supplier for the SkyEye 350 Aerial Surveillance Platform Project.

ASSI provides Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems — Integrated, Modified and Installed for customers throughout the world, including:

Sky Quest video displays

  • ENVIRONMENTALIntelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
  • Intelligence is “information and knowledge obtained through observation, investigation, analysis, or understanding.”
  • Surveillance and Reconnaissance refer to the means by which the information is observed and gathered.
  • Surveillance is “systematic” observation to collect whatever data is available.
  • Reconnaissance is a specific mission performed to obtain specific data.Prop plane on runway“Persistent, multi-spectral, airborne ISR is the greatest current and future need in the war on terrorism, on drugs, for Airborne Law Enforcement, I.E.D. detection and many other potential applications — and will be required at all levels of the worldwide threat environment.”

    – Colonel A. Thomas Ball, Jr., Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC), Commander, 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize).

    Project Liberty KA-350ER

    Detect, Process, Evaluate, Resolve, Act, Exploit! — In Real-time!

    Some or All of the I.S.R. Systems, including the SkyEye 350 Aerial Surveillance Platform and its installed Sensor Suite are Subject to United States and International ITAR (International Treaty on Arms Regulations) and other Specific Regulations and Export Controls and Approvals. Platform and Equipment are not Exportable to All Countries.

    Team Offers King Air Surveillance Platforms
    Graham Warwick
    July 10, 2009This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

    With the growing use of King Air twin-turboprops for surveillance, a new venture is offering to deliver outfitted platforms on short notice by having a pipeline of aircraft in modification.

    Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Aerial Surveillance Systems Inc. (ASSI) has selected modification specialist Stevens Aviation to install an adapted cargo pod, sensor, operator’s console, avionics and other mission hardware on low-time used King Air 350s.

    The modified King Air is being marketed to government and military customers as the SkyEye 350. The first aircraft is in modification and is scheduled to fly at the beginning of September, says Stevens Aviation’s Frank Golden.

    ASSI has selected FLIR Systems as electro-optical/infrared sensor provider, and will equip the aircraft to take either the Star Safire HD or Brite Star II system, he says. Rosen Aviation is supplying console displays and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems the mission control software.

    Golden says ASSI’s business plan is to have two or three aircraft in modification at all times, so they can be customized and delivered within three to four months, compared with 18 months for a traditional acquisition.

    The smaller King Air B200 will be offered as a lower-cost platform, he says, while the companies will also offer to install the basic mission package on other aircraft types, including the Cessna 208 Caravan.

    The U.S. Air Force’s MC-12W Project Liberty surveillance platform is based on the King Air 350ER, with missionization led by L-3 Communications. The U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN operates several modified King Airs.

    Stevens And Flir Selected For SkyEye 350
    Staff Writers
    July 09, 2009The SkyEye 350.
    Aerial Surveillance Systems has announced that the company selected Stevens Aviation as its maintenance repair organization (MRO) to install, modify, certify and integrate its SkyEye 350 Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350-based aerial surveillance platform program.

    In addition, FLIR Systems, Inc was selected to provide the electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor.

    Stevens Aviation will be responsible for all aspects of the program including the installation of the special missions cargo pod, avionics upgrades and the fitting of the FLIR Systems sensor.

    Stevens Aviation will also handle the installation and integration of all other mission control hardware and modifications, including a highly customized Rosen Aviation video display system and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ CLAW mission control software with moving map and full mission planning capabilities.

    “After looking at all of the available MRO’s in the United States, it was determined that Stevens Aviation would bring the most comprehensive and capable expertise and experience to our program,” said Michael D. Long, director of international sales for Aerial Surveillance Systems.

    “Their customer focus and commitment to excellence will help us make the SkyEye 350 the most successful aerial surveillance platform in the world and will take the program to the next level after the successful launch of the aircraft.”

    Aerial Surveillance Systems is now in the process of down selecting to FLIR Systems’ Star SAFIRE HD or BRITE Star III.

    The specially modified EO/IR sensor package will capture stabilized high-magnification images that allow the SkyEye 350 to provide a wide range of low-medium-high-altitude tactical missions and long-range covert surveillance operation capabilities. The sensor also provides the means to handle a variety of multi-role applications, which allow images to be transmitted in real-time to fixed and mobile receiver locations for immediate interpretation.

    FLIR Systems’ EO/IR, laser, surveillance and targeting systems provide unparalleled image stability and long-range detection capabilities. Currently, FLIR Systems sensors are on over 100 different types of fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle and ship platforms in more than 75 countries around the world.

    “Stevens Aviation’s extensive repair and upgrade work on the entire King Air line of corporate aircraft made the company a perfect choice as our MRO partner,” said Long.

    “Another factor that played a part in the selection is their ongoing depot level overhaul, maintenance and modification work experience for the United States military’s C-12’s and other government agency aircraft.”

    Episode XI Studios contracted by Aerial Surveillance Systems
    01-07-2009CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Full-service video production company, Episode XI Studios, LLC, located in Charlotte, NC was contracted by Aerial Surveillance Systems, Inc. to capture footage of the SkyEye 350 Special Missions aircraft, to be used as a component of a capabilities video. The video demonstrates the Beech King Air 350 before and after installation of surveillance systems.Aerial Surveillance Systems, Inc. is a Scottsdale, Arizona based, responsive, focused and customer-oriented company, which expertly, rapidly and reliably handle all facets of Airborne I.S.R. and Aerial Surveillance and Reconnaissance Project Development and Completion.

    The SkyEye 350 is a unique, highly capable airborne Multi-Role, Multi-Sensor, Special Missions Aerial Surveillance and Reconnaissance Platform (MR/SM-ASP) which has been configured utilizing a low-time, completely refurbished, pre-owned Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) King Air Model 350 turboprop aircraft with the following value added features:

    • Compact L-3 Communications, Sonoma EO Multi-Sensor Gyro-Stabilized Gimbaled Turret-Mount with Modular Design
    • Combat-proven Surveillance Capability with Outstanding Image Quality and Standoff Range
    • Quad Sensor with Infrared Thermal Imager (FLIR), Color Wide Angle Daylight Camera, Color Daylight Camera with Zoom Spotter Lens (955mm), Eye-Safe Laser Rangefinder
    • Exceptional Infrared Optics with 15mm Aperture
    • DLTV Spotter with full 90mm Aperture with Plug and Play SmartLink Interface
    • L-3 Communications, Sonoma EO Skyball Vibration Isolation and Active Gyro Stabilization with full Day/Night Capabilities Enabling the Detection and Recognition of People, Objects and Vehicles Over Long Distances – 5-10 Nautical Miles and 10,000-15,000 AGL
    • Manufactured to Military Specifications for Max Reliability and Low Maintenance Requirements
    • Custom Operator Input Device (Control Unit for Mission Control Console)
    • Night Vision Compatibility
    • Automatic Video Tracking with Digital Output
    • High Quality Video Feed for Digital Viewing, Onboard Storage and/or Remote transmission.

    Episode XI Studios, LLC is located in Charlotte, NC, and believes in going well beyond a camera and a tripod, by using a cinema approach of camera cranes and dollies. The end result isn’t a video production, but a Hollywood-style production…and all for the small to mid-sized companies.

    If you would like more information, please contact Randy Davis at 704.998.3711, or visit the website at, and for more information on ASSI or the SkyEye 350 Aerial Surveillance Platform please contact Michael D. Long at 480.703.6698 or office at 480.315.8888 or visit their website at

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    7 Responses to “Surveillance Aircraft ID”

    1. […] Martial Law Alerts History HERE / Recent Week – Below / Helicopter ID HERE and Surveillance Aircraft ID HERE […]

    2. […] – Forsythe County, small white planes (no logo) flying over (could be border patrol see Surveillance ID HERE).  Too low to be commercial and flew over about 3 times […]

    3. […] – Forsythe County, small white planes (no logo) flying over (could be border patrol see Surveillance ID HERE).  Too low to be commercial and flew over about 3 times […]

    4. […] what we can see, this looks like a King 100 or 350.  This is a dual propeller aircraft and the large bulk of them belong to the US Navy (also under […]

    5. Dr Arthur Mollin Says:

      Very interesting.

      I’m finishing an intelligence studies graduate degree in January and in one discussion, units like yours came up.

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