It's a bird! It's a plane! Actually, it's an unmanned aircraft built by Insitu. The company makes unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) - small pilotless aircraft, such as the ScanEagle, NightEagle, and Integrator, for the military, public safety, aerospace, and other markets. These miniature robotic aircraft are typically used for commercial and government intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) from border patrol and forest fire control to meteorology and geophysical mapping. ScanEagle, which is used by the US for surveillance in Afghanistan, was developed with Boeing. The collaboration was so successful that in 2008 the aerospace giant acquired Insitu, which was formed in 1994.
The deal made Insitu a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing Defense, Space & Security's (BDS; formerly Boeing Integrated Defense Systems) Military Aircraft division.
Before the announcement of this acquisition, Insitu had already begun a global expansion plan. Its growing volume of business with the Australian military led to the formation of an Australian subsidiary, Insitu Pacific.
Outside of Insitu's traditional military customer base, civilian uses of the company's pilotless craft have included wildlife monitoring by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks and flood plain surveillance by the University of North Dakota.