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Boeing - ScanEagle to collect airborne biological agents

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: 12 March, 2008  (Application Story)
The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Boeing have demonstrated successfully that ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles modified to look for biological warfare agents can effectively intercept, detect and fly through simulated biological plumes or clouds to collect airborne agents.
Tests also show that the UAVs can successfully collect airborne material and data from a target site that can help U.S. forces combat the threat from biological agents and minimize the danger to friendly forces and civilians.

From early November 2007 to the end of January 2008, Boeing conducted developmental, shipboard integration and operational flight tests of the Biological Combat Assessment System (BCAS) as part of the BCAS Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) program in support of DTRA.

Developmental testing was conducted in November 2007 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The shipboard integration testing was conducted at sea in early December 2007. And, in late January 2008, the final operational demonstration test was conducted from the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command 38 research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.

'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.'

Coleman said these capabilities would enable U.S. forces to accurately perform, at safe distances, 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.

During the developmental tests at Fort Leonard Wood and the operational tests in the Gulf of Mexico, two BCAS ScanEagle UAVs, one equipped with a biological collection system and the other equipped with sensors to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), flew tandem beyond-line-of-sight missions into and out of simulated counterforce strike target locations. They were to collect air samples within simulated biological plumes, which represented the collateral effects of counterforce strikes on weapons-of-mass-destruction research and production facilities, and bring back the samples for further analysis.

In the final operational demonstration tests in late January, the two BCAS ScanEagles were launched at sea from the NAVAIR 38 ship, successfully intercepted seven of eight simulated biological plumes, then were successfully recovered aboard the ship and decontaminated.

The tests were part of a two-year, Phase 1 contract awarded to Boeing Phantom Works by the BCAS Program Office of DTRA within the U.S. Department of Defense. Boeing and a team of U.S. bio-defense companies modified the ScanEagle UAVs to look for potential biological warfare agents for sample collection. The Boeing-led contractor team includes Midwest Research Inc. of Kansas City, Mo.; Insitu of Bingen, Wash.; Applied Research Associates of Alexandria, Va.; and L-3 Communications of San Diego.

The team is currently developing a remote sensor system to enable further assessment of potential battle damage and collateral effects and to locate, track, collect and detect simulated biological warfare agents from a designated target area.

The biological collection ScanEagle is equipped with bio-collection and plume tracking systems that are integrated into a unique customer payload that is designed specifically for the BCAS. The ISR ScanEagle incorporates significant data storage upgrades over the stock ScanEagle, along with unique beyond-line-of-sight picture snapshot technologies specifically designed for the BCAS mission.

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