Yemen has become the latest export customer for American Scan Eagle UAVs. Yemen has ordered a dozen of these aircraft, along with a launcher, control and maintenance equipment. The U.S. is also providing operator and maintenance training. The entire package costs $11 million. Before this deal the United States has provided Yemen with 27 single engine commercial propeller driven aircraft equipped with surveillance equipment similar to what is on Scan Eagle. Yemen has also received Raven micro (2 kg/4.5 pound) UAVs.
Yemen is not the first customer in the region. Iraq ordered ten Scan Eagle UAVs in late 2013 and these were rushed to Iraq in 2014 because Iraqi troops have already gotten a taste of how effective these small remotely controlled aircraft are from using some 2 kg (4.4 pound) Ravens the U.S. left behind and seeing American troops benefit from the many UAVs they regularly used.
The Scan Eagle weighs 19 kg (40 pounds), has a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wingspan, and uses day and night video cameras. It uses a catapult for launch and can be landed via a wing hook that catches a rope hanging from a 16 meter (fifty foot) pole. There is also a smaller CLRE (Compact Launch and Recovery System) that will eventually be available for ship use. On land Scan Eagle can also land on any flat, solid surface.
The Scan Eagle can stay in the air for up to 15 hours per flight and fly as high as 5 kilometers (16,000 feet). Scan Eagles cruising speed is 110 kilometers an hour and it can operate at least a hundred kilometers from the ground controller. Scan Eagle carries an optical system that is stabilized to keep the cameras focused on an object while the UAV moves. Scan Eagle has been flying for over a decade now and has been in military service since 2005.
Meanwhile the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy have ordered a new UAV that is basically a larger Scan Eagle. This is the RQ-21A Blackjack. Production began in 2013 and deliveries began shortly after that. RQ-21A is a 55 kg (121 pound) UAV, which has a 4.9 meter (16 foot) wingspan and can fly as high as 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) at a cruise speed of 100 kilometers an hour. RQ-21A can stay in the air up to 24 hours and can carry a payload of 23 kg (50 pounds). It uses the same takeoff and landing equipment as the Scan Eagle. RQ-21A also uses many of the Scan Eagle sensors, in addition to new ones that were too heavy for Scan Eagle. The additional weight of the RQ-21A makes it more stable in bad weather or windy conditions.