Insitu’s Innovative Multi-copter Provides More Options for the Unmanned ScanEagle
The device resembles an octopus, with mechanical tentacles reaching in all directions, wrapping up others when necessary. Yet FLARES (Flying Launch and Recovery System) was meant for the sky rather than the sea. It’s the latest innovation in the rapidly evolving world of unmanned aerial systems, or UAS. Built by Boeing subsidiary Insitu in Bingen, Wash., FLARES is an autonomous multi-copter that complements the ScanEagle, the company’s flagship and original unmanned aircraft, by dispatching it and catching it in flight.
FLARES, with ScanEagle tethered below it (see pic), provides options, said Andrew Hayes, Insitu director of advanced development. It climbs to 500 feet (150 meters) and releases its fellow UAS. The process takes less than five minutes. A ground operator presses a button on a handheld controller and a freed ScanEagle simply flies away from FLARES.
On retrieval, the multi- copter hovers in one place and catches the returning unmanned aircraft with a 300-foot-long (100-meter) cable and gently sets it on the ground. The ScanEagle flies into the cable, which slides down the leading edge of the swept wing until a wing hook engages.
“With FLARES, we can launch anywhere,” Hayes said. “This opens up a lot of different places” - a great improvement indeed.