March 11, 2008 Increasingly sophisticated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are already playing a key role in reconnaissance and combat missions around the globe by offering a versatile platform which removes the human operator from the line-of-fire. Now the effectiveness of these systems has been demonstrated in one of the most sinister scenarios of modern warfare - biological threat. Boeing, in conjunction with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has successfully shown that a modified version of its ScanEagle UAV can intercept, detect and fly through simulated biological plumes or clouds to collect airborne agents.
A series of tests conducted between November 2007 to the end of January 2008 demonstrated the shipboard integration and operational capabilities of the Biological Combat Assessment System (BCAS), culminating in the final operational demonstration tests in late January where two BCAS ScanEagles were launched at sea from the NAVAIR 38 ship and successfully intercepted seven of eight simulated biological plumes before being recovered aboard the ship and decontaminated.
The tandem system uses one ScanEagle equipped with bio-collection and plume tracking technology and another (ISR ScanEagle) equipped with sensors to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, including beyond-line-of-sight imaging capabilities.
The technology will enable battle damage assessment of plume releases that result from counterforce strikes against facilities dedicated to the research, production and/or storage of biological warfare agents.
"This accomplishment is an example of how Boeing is leveraging the best minds and technologies in the world to better serve U.S. and allied armed forces with higher-performance products and services," said Keith Coleman, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for the BCAS ATD program. "We now know that we can use UAVs to find and intercept biological plumes using computerized prediction models, along with location and tracking software and other UAV-based sensors. We've also demonstrated that the BCAS UAVs can operate at beyond-line-of-sight ranges far in excess of our program requirements."