We had the opportunity to ask three questions to Seeker Aircraft VP of Marketing Michelle Martinez. The transcript of our interview follows:
AirInsight: Seeker just announced manufacturing of its surveillance aircraft in the United States. Can you tell us a bit about the aircraft that will be assembled by Erickson in the Pacific Northwest, and the A2 model that was recently introduced?
M. Martinez: The Seeker is purpose built aircraft for observation and surveillance tasks. It is extremely rugged and uniquely capable of operating at high density altitudes at very low cost. With six (6) hours of endurance, and a maximum range of 476 nautical miles, the Seeker can observe large areas for long durations. Of note, the Seeker A2 models are fully capable of operating during hot summer season which typically keeps most piston engine aircraft and some turbine engine aircraft on the ground in the afternoons.
In addition, the Seeker’s resistance to stalling at slow patrol speeds, enables crew members to perform their surveillance missions with minimal safety hazard. The Seeker A2 model is IFR certified aircraft with an NVG compatible cockpit that can operate safely and efficiently in challenging weather conditions. Ruggedly built and designed as an Australian bush plane, the Seeker can seamlessly transition from operations from a traditional airport to off field operations on unimproved surfaces. The Seeker is a true Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft.
AirInsight: As a surveillance aircraft, the Seeker seems well suited to activities such as Border Patrol and law enforcement operations that today rely on helicopters. Is your fixed wing alternative a more cost-effective solution, and what are the unique capabilities of this purpose built aircraft?
M. Martinez: The Seeker, while satisfying the broad requirements set forth above, provides Border Patrol and Law Enforcement with specific benefits that cannot be matched by any other airframe. These are as follows:
- Because of its low direct operating costs, the aircraft can be flown almost continuously, making aerial surveillance a virtual non-stop component of the area being policed
- Continuous aerial surveillance is of huge benefit to any agency or company, but also provides an exponential equivalent to having additional officers or personnel in the field. The immediate benefit of a Seeker is that it will become an officer/agent “Force Multiplier!”
- An aggressive aerial surveillance program will significantly reduce officer/agent response times in the area being observed, and provide additional situational awareness to officer/agents on the ground
- The Seeker’s systems capabilities and connectivity to officers/agents on the ground will enable faster apprehension of criminal suspects, while providing officers a comprehensive view of the target area. This capability enables officers to quickly assess an evolving situation, thus reducing the possibility of conflict escalation with bystanders
The Seeker is ideally suited for a wide variety sensors and optional surveillance equipment. Equipment can be mounted directly under the sensor operator’s seat with uninhibited field of view. In this position, equipment is not at risk to be damaged because the Seeker’s propeller, landing gear and engine are positioned well above and behind the sensors mounting area. Take-off and landing from unimproved fields can be done as routine operations without risk of damaging sensors with the Seeker. Navigational and datalink systems are mounted in the aft cockpit, behind the crew’s seats making preflight inspection effortless. A 24 volt, 70 amp electrical system is standard on the Seeker, which easily accommodates the power requirements of the various systems with power to spare.
AirInsight: This aircraft began life in Australia, and will now be manufactured in the US. How large is the potential market for these aircraft, and when can we expect to be seeing Seeker Aircraft in active service in the United States?
The potential market for the Seeker is large and our Seeker Team is currently developing Border Patrol, Law Enforcement and Oil and Gas pipe line observation market areas. The Seeker is currently operational with one law enforcement agency within the US. Other market areas include traffic monitoring, larceny or theft prevention, search and rescue, reconnaissance, fire spotting, news reporting, video or photo capture, vegetation control, land management, livestock monitoring and more. Additionally, there is interest globally for drug interdiction, human smuggling interdiction, wildlife accountability and control and poaching interdiction.