Silent watchers over Somalia

January 11, 2016  - By
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The Spanish navy is using UAVs for intelligence operations on the northern and eastern coasts of Somalia to locate possible illegal activities. This past summer, the navy used the Scan Eagle unmanned air system during Operation Atalanta, a European Union mission combating piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The Scan Eagle system, deployed from the amphibious assault ship Galicia, produced valuable intelligence for the Naval Force of the European Union (EUNAVFOR). The system consists of four aircraft, one of which is designed to acquire night images.

The New Spanish Armada: Sailors onboard Galicia in the Indian Ocean prepare to launch a Scan Eagle on a surveillance mission. (Photos: Spanish Ministry of Defense)

The New Spanish Armada: Sailors onboard Galicia in the Indian Ocean prepare to launch a Scan Eagle on a surveillance mission. (Photos: Spanish Ministry of Defense)

The Scan Eagle is launched via a catapult, and lands by means of a pole, into which the aircraft is “locked.” A set of antennas sends and receives information between the control station and the UAV.

The system can operate continuously for more than 18 hours at a stretch, collecting data, images and video both day and night.

During Operation Atalanta, the Scan Eagles completed more than 175 flight hours, collecting imagery for more than 11 hours without being detected and providing command with real-time images of possible targets.

The UAV system was also deployed in Afghanistan, where it operated from the advanced support base of Qala i Naw until the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent in 2013.

The mission represents a milestone for the Spanish navy — the first remotely piloted aircraft operating successfully from a navy vessel.

Night eyes: One of the four UAVs deployed was equipped for night imagery.

Night eyes: One of the four UAVs deployed was equipped for night imagery. (Photo: Spanish Ministry of Defense)

Control Station: From the ship’s hangar, the UAV is controlled by operators of the new 11th aircraft squadron of the Spanish Navy.

Control Station: From the ship’s hangar, the UAV is controlled by operators of the new 11th aircraft squadron of the Spanish Navy. (Photo: Spanish Ministry of Defense)

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