Seeker Aircraft has announced that its single-engine purpose-designed surveillance aircraft will be built in North America by Erickson in Oregon, in addition to the factory in Australia, where the aircraft was first developed.
The Seeker SB7L-360A and A2 models are single engine aircraft that have been designed specifically for aerial surveillance. Features of the aircraft include a glass canopy cockpit that offers 270 degree visibility, a rear engine and exhaust to enable specialized sensors to operate without interference or heat signatures from the engine, and a tailwheel configuration to provide ground clearance for the Wescam MX-10 multi-spectral imaging system or other unique equipment packages. The aircraft, as shown below, is rather unique looking.
Key applications for the aircraft include border patrol, law enforcement, and pipeline or electrical wire patrol operations in which low speed and low altitude attributes are important. The aircraft itself is optimized for slow speed patrol, and is able to loiter in a 65 knot cruise speed for more than 6 hours at a time.
The aircraft, which I have flown, is exceptionally stable and stalls at a very low 48 knots, and remains controllable through a stall, only losing altitude rather than having a sharp stall break. That’s a key consideration for pilots who may be tracking a suspect and forget about flying the aircraft for a moment. It is a safe and forgiving aircraft.
With such a low stall speed, the aircraft is well suited for short field operations with its tailwheel configuration. Of course watching the runway come up through the plexiglass beneath the rudder pedals can be a bit of a different view than on most aircraft.
The applications for this aircraft include traffic monitoring, drug interdiction, human smuggling interdiction, larceny or theft protection, search and rescue, reconnaissance, fire spotting, wildlife accountability and control, poaching interdiction, power line or pipeline surveillance, news reporting, video or photo capture, vegetation control, land management, and livestock monitoring.
The aircraft can be customized with a number of packages and equipment, including radar, infrared radar (FLIR), Sonar, and even LIDAR sensing systems and a variety of real-time communication devices.
The cockpit contains an operators position that includes a large multifunction display that displays both the output of the camera and a navigation augmented reality mapping system. When combined with a bi-directional link wave relay, information from the aircraft can easily be transferred from the aircraft directly to control centers or even to patrol cars and the mobile devices of individual officers.
The Seeker aircraft is unique, both in its looks and capabilities, and its mission costs are about 1/10th of the cost of a helicopter operating similar surveillance missions for which a landing is not required. With low costs and unique capabilities, this aircraft should find a successful market niche in law enforcement and utility applications.