Insitu signs deal with Netherlands

Nation will use its unmanned aircraft for surveillance

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Bingen-based Insitu Inc. has signed a contract to supply its ScanEagle unmanned aircraft to the Netherlands to fly surveillance missions for the nation’s Ministry of Defense.

The Netherlands’ military has been using a different unmanned system, which will soon be replaced by the ScanEagle, said Jill Vacek, a spokeswoman for Insitu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co. She would not disclose the number of aircraft ordered or the dollar amount of the Netherlands’ contract.

“It’s the beginning of our relationship with them,” Vacek said.

Developed through a joint agreement in 2002 between The Boeing Co. and Insitu, the ScanEagle can fly missions that are more than 24 hours long.

Vacek said the Netherlands was looking to switch from an unmanned system that is obsolete.

As Insitu’s main U.S. military clients brace for Defense Department budget cuts, the company is also exploring new domestic markets, including the prospect of working for Homeland Security. Insitu recently sent representatives to the agency’s border security trade show in Phoenix, Ariz.

“We want them to know it is an option — a great alternative for them,” Vacek said.

But for now, U.S. airspace is closed to Insitu’s ScanEagle, due to Federal Aviation Administration rules that ban the lighter-weight, unmanned planes but allow the heavier Predator drones.

The Scan Eagle weighs in at about 40 pounds at its lightest weight, Vacek said.

The FAA has said it is currently reviewing its rules for unmanned aircraft systems and hopes to integrate unmanned civil, public and military aircraft into the same airspace by 2015.

Insitu employs about 800 people in communities up and down the Gorge, including Bingen, Hood River, Ore., White Salmon, Stevenson and Vancouver.

It announced plans in December to add two new buildings to its waterfront campus at the Bingen-based Port of Klickitat on the Washington side of the Columbia River, directly across the river from Hood River, Ore.