Boeing [BA] recently said it has agreed to acquire Insitu, Inc., a small firm that developed and built the ScanEagle unmanned air system and with which it has teamed for the past six years, in an effort to secure a stronger position in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of September, were not disclosed. Insitu is demonstrating strong growth, with sales expected to reach $150 million this year, a 70 percent increase over 2007. And Boeing believes there is more growth to come.

The acquisition will accelerate Boeing’s “UAS growth strategy,” Vic Sweberg, director of Airborne Submarine Warfare and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance within Boeing’s defense division, told sister publication Defense Daily. The nearest term opportunity for a new program for Boeing with ScanEagle is the joint Navy and Marine Corp Small Tactical UAS Tier II program, he said.

A draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Navy and Marine Corps program has been issued and the final RFP could come later this year.

Sweberg said that in addition to the ScanEagle program, Insitu has strong capabilities in rapid prototyping, scaleable technologies, “great” overall technology and other things on the “drawing board.”

The demand for persistent ISR is now a key component of an operational commander’s toolkit and the Defense Department’s leadership is putting more emphasis on the need for UAVs, Sweberg and Al Jackson, vice president of Sales and Government Relations at Insitu, said.

“Increasingly our customers are seeking advanced unmanned aerial solutions to address a wide range of requirements for ISR missions,” Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said in a statement.

ScanEagle has more than 100,000 operational flight hours with DoD and international customers. The Marine Corps and Australian Defence Forces use the system in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Navy uses it aboard ships in those areas of operation.

Washington-based Insitu has 360 employees. Houlihan Lokey served as the company’s financial adviser on the deal.

Boeing has had limited success in the UAV market so far beyond its partnership with Insitu and ongoing in-house initiatives. The company recently lost to Northrop Grumman [NOC] to supply the Navy with a carrier-based unmanned combat air vehicle.