New names, new contract structures alter UAS market

A number of new companies are entering the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) market with the goal of landing business with a Defense Department eager to employ the drones with improved capabilities for crucial reconnaissance missions in a time of reduced budgets, reports Aviation Week.

A good illustration of the trend is the competition among three companies for sea- and land-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) opportunities with the Navy through an $874 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that the Defense Department announced in February.

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Three companies get up to $874 million for ISR work

The way the Navy's ISR contract is structured, AAI, Boeing Insitu and CSC will compete against each other for individual task orders. While AAI and Insitu have considerable experience designing unmanned aircraft, IT services giant CSC is a newcomer to the sector.

Insitu won the first task order under the Navy's new ISR contract to furnish its ScanEagle UAS for sea-based services, an industry source told Aviation Week. For its part, AAI has landed a contract potentially worth $600 million to provide the Special Operations Command with its Aerosonde UAS.

Meanwhile, CSC has qualified to furnish land-based services to the Navy with its Arcturus UAV T-50, but has not yet won a specific task order, the story said.

CSC made a move to enter the ISR services market following its acquisition in 2010 of CenTauri Solutions, which had expertise integrating ISR sensors on the Scheibel S-100 unmanned helicopter for the Joint IED Defeat Organization's Yellow Jacket program.

The Navy's ISR contract also illustrates a key trend in the military's acquisition strategy as it relates to unmanned aircraft, industry officials told Aviation Week. That trend is the adoption of a fee-for-service approach which allows a military service to avoid being too dependent on any one UAS manufacturer. 

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