Scan Eagle and the Royal Navy – First Operational Deployment

Just read that the first operational flight of a Scan Eagle in UK service has taken place from RFA Cardigan Bay in support of maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean.

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Chuck Hill
December 18, 2013 9:45 pm

Somewhat confusing article, could easily confusing readers between large armed Reaper and little inoffensive Scan Eagle.

December 18, 2013 11:05 pm

This was on the BBC today.
Journalists still do not now the difference between a drone and a UAV.

Will the predators when they come back from Afgan be based at Aberporth with the control based at Waddington?

December 19, 2013 6:58 am

That’s good news. Only two of them though :-(

Given how cost affective they are I would have hoped to have one on all deployed vessels but something is better than nothing.

December 19, 2013 7:22 am

Them and me as well. What is the difference?

December 19, 2013 8:41 am

Chuck, no joke, I’ve no idea why the UAV control base for Predators and Reapers was even in that article, Scan Eagle is controlled from the ship, not from the UK, no satellite capability.

It really looks like a case of confused journalist. Or someone gave him a word quota he had to fill.

Peter Elliott
December 19, 2013 9:28 am

Surely the Bay Class must be a contender for ‘Most useful deployed ship’ of the last 10 years?

December 19, 2013 9:31 am

Couple things.

Re Scan Eagle, it’s a nice line to spin out in saying its going to be used to track Somali pirates but a rather narrow perspective to write from (albeit one that will get attention). They provide outstanding intelligence for a task group and very simple to deploy and operate.

The catapult and crane are a bit chunky at present, but they really should be fitted to the Bay’s as standard, and Albion/Bulwark too.

Re drones in general, I noted in that article that (again) the pilots declined to give their full names? Is this MoD directive, and if so what’s the reason behind it? Is there a concern over legality?

December 19, 2013 10:06 am

Overseas you read too much into it. It is NOT illegal to have CUAVs. Security issue, possible. Legal issue? Nonsense. Governments set the laws and it would be a real schizophrenic one to ban itself from owning a useful item. It’s more likely to be just be a lazy journalist who never bothered to ask for the person’s full name. I have faith in humankind’s laziness.

December 19, 2013 12:34 pm

Mr Fred – the difference is quite simple and frankly I wonder if jounalists deliberately confuse this issue.

UAV / Combat UAV / Remotely Piloted Aircraft – do not have a pilot on board, ie in the aircraft, but are still directly controlled by a pilot via a control centre (in the home country, in the field, on a ship etc). It is a really simply concept – they are remote control aircraft. They have no autonomy and all decisions are taken by the human
Drone – is autonomous in nature. Ie it is as above, but instead of a pilot, it has algorithms / programming which determine how it will react to external stimuli – eg – attach this object under these conditions.

There is some slight blurring at the edges with some UAVs (eg Global Hawk) have the ability to fly pre-programmed search patterns over a particular area, but even then they don’t have “autonomy” – or at least no more autonomy than an auto-pilot on a conventional aeroplane….

December 19, 2013 6:43 pm

Do you know, I can’t find anything that indicates that the difference between ‘Drone’ and ‘UAV/UAS/RPV’ is anything other than nonsense to distinguish those ‘in the group’ from those ‘outside the group’. It seems to be a distinction applied after the fact.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
December 19, 2013 6:53 pm

@Overseas/Observer…The two charmers who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby were convicted today and best estimates are that we have some thousands of young men (and some young women) holding similar views…bearing that in mind and the comparatively small numbers in HMAF…and the fact that the location of Bases is well known, and given a name and a likely location a few hours with the Electoral Register will throw up a short-list of possible addresses…it may actually be the precautionary principle at work…


December 19, 2013 9:00 pm

That may be, but a name is a name.
The definition was added to each because drones are viewed as autonomous killing machines the control them selves not unlike a terminator.
The armed forces, MOD and manufacturers want there to be an obvious difference so they came up with the definition to show that it is under the control of a human at all times. So a pilot is responsible for anything that happens.
It is to show there is someone in control
Jo public do not like the idea of terminators romming the countryside.
Protest groups are always telling everyone that UAV are autonomous so they fly around attacking any large group of people the come across this is just not true.
There is someone responsible in the event of an accident and they are court marshalled if they get it rong

December 20, 2013 1:30 pm

@Observer and GNB

Thanks for the feedback. There has got to be a reason first-name only terms because a journalist in such a position wouldn’t ever forget or neglect to try and get a full name, if only for his/her own reference.

Security or legality is the only thing I can think of. But then the SQ Ldr went with a full name a designation, so again, who knows. Best guess, the RPAV pilots probably have to sign something akin to OSA and are barred from giving last names out.

December 20, 2013 5:50 pm

Overseas, I’ve seen remarkable journalistic balls ups before, enough to not take their skills as a given.

Gloomy, I did say it was a possible security issue, my main drive was that to call it a “legal issue” is re-writing the law to persecute what you dislike.

Nigel, mr.fred is right, the term “drone” is not really technical lexicon and is really more a layman’s term that is only coming into use to define the degree of autonomic ability of the plane in very recent times because before this there really was not much public interest in RPVs. The current term UAVs evolved from the old RPVs.

TD, budget. :)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
December 20, 2013 6:32 pm

@Observer – I was intending to agree with you and add illustrative detail that you might not have been aware of – especially the outcome of the Lee Rigby Trial which is unlikely to make the news in Singapore, although I’d guess you are familiar with the case by now…


Darned Consultant
Darned Consultant
December 20, 2013 7:04 pm

Terminology is really a rubeum allec…

The FAA call them RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft). This doesn’t really fit very well with vehicles such as Watchkeeper or Global/EuroHawk. These follow preplanned routes, with emergency routes preplanned. Reaper etc fits in with the FAA’s RPA definition closer… Autonomy is a many layered cake tho… A WK is about as able to wander off (within a certain limit) on its own as much as a BA 777 is able to go off piste between London and Sidney.

However, think about anything you know about, and how it is reported in the press… It’s the same for every topic – Why would journo’s be able to tell the difference between a Scaneagle and a Reaper, they probably think the conflation makes sense.

December 20, 2013 7:43 pm

A cursory search on DTIC indicates that, historically, the term “drone” applies to any unmanned aircraft.

You can, of course, add definitions such as RPA, but you can’t redefine a general term and then get irritated when people still use the original definition.

The Securocrat
December 20, 2013 7:49 pm

If you’re really interested, it’s explained in the most recent UK Doctrine Note on the subject ( on pages 12 and 13 of the PDF.

If I were being mischievous, I’d say most people were happy with Unmanned Aircraft, and it’s been the RAF and USAF pushing the ‘remotely-piloted’ term to be different. But that would obviously be unfair….

December 21, 2013 2:04 am

Gloomy, it’s a slow news day every day over here, mostly. The only exciting news comes from overseas so I am familiar with the case, even with the current theatre collapse in London or the recent helicopter into a pub incident. Hey, the newspapers have to earn a living somehow, so if they don’t get their news from somewhere, it’s going to be a very thin paper.