From AOL Defense
Don’t buy planes, buy pixels — as the U.S. military is doing from companies offering a service best described as “rent-a-drone.” It may be too soon to call rent-a-drone contracts a trend, but they’re a solution both the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)have turned to in recent weeks to get intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability in a hurry. Those involved say it’s a new business model that’s generating considerable interest in the unmanned aircraft industry.
Rent-a-drone contracts aren’t entirely new. Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc. pioneered the business model, which it calls “pixels by the hour,” flying its ScanEagle UAS for the Marines before and during the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. Insitu employees deployed with the Marines to fly the missions. SOCOM and NAVAIR have awarded Insitu similar contracts for ScanEagle services once each in the years since. But as the variety and capabilities of UAS proliferate, buying imagery instead of the systems that produce it may be an ever more attractive option for the armed services, and new players are entering the market.