UAV maker Insitu has demonstrated launch and recovery of its ScanEagle small long-endurance UAV using another unmanned aircraft.                                                                       

The Flying Launch and Recovery System (Flares) is a vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV with four pairs of rotors. The vehicle lifts the fixed-wing ScanEagle vertically into the air, releases it into forward flight, then lands vertically.

For recovery, the Flares takes off and hovers trailing a cable, which the ScanEagle autonomously captures, as it would the cable suspended from the SkyHook crane typically used to recover it.

Flares eliminates the need to transport and assemble the launch catapult and recovery crane, particularly for remote sites, and allows the UAV to be launched and recovered above surrounding obstacles, enabling operation in jungles, from courtyards and other confined areas.
Working with supplier Hood Tech, Insitu says it built a Flares prototype in 2014 using off-the-shelf components. Proof-of-concept flights in December demonstrated capture of the UAV, followed in July with captive-carry flights with a “low-weight” ScanEagle.

Launch and recovery was demonstrated in August, Insitu says, adding, “Further development will focus on increased UAV launch weight, system reliability, manufacturability and maritime capabilities.”

A low-rate initial production version is planned for late 2016. “ScanEagle is being used to develop Flares, but is just one of many possible intended platform applications of the system,” Insitu says.