US Coast Guard picks ScanEagle for airborne drone surveillance

Photo: Insitu

The U.S. Coast Guard informed that it would test Insitu’s ScanEagle small unmanned aircraft system by deploying the system  from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton stationed in Alameda, California.

Should all go well, the service plans to deploy the system in 2017.

The Coast Guard procured this contractor-owned and -operated system under an existing Naval Air Systems Command contract award. The $4.5 million order was awarded on June 24 and includes operation, integration, maintenance and sparing of the system for one year.

According to the service, the order has a total potential value of $12.3 million that includes options to deploy and receive data from the system for up to three additional years beyond the base year. The Coast Guard will have full ownership of the surveillance data obtained.

Depending on the performance of the ScanEagle during the deployment, the Coast Guard will review its strategy for the procurement of small UAS systems for its entire national security cutter fleet.

“This task order award begins to build the foundation for the next generation of Coast Guard aviation,” said Jeff Bishop, program manager of Coast Guard sUAS acquisition. “Having a UAS on board the NSC has been a long time in the making, and we look forward to the benefit this new capability brings to the NSC fleet.”

The deployment of unmanned systems will enhance the NSC fleet’s capability to provide persistent, tactical airborne surveillance. It will augment the NSC’s embarked manned helicopter capability with 12 hours of continuous flight time and up to 200 hours of on-station sensor data per month.

The ScanEagle has a 10-foot wingspan, flight endurance of more than 24 hours, and a maximum weight of 48.5 pounds with the electro-optical or infrared sensor payloads it can carry. The NSC will deploy the sUAS via a portable rail launch system and recover it via a hook and lanyard system.

The Coast Guard has conducted years of operational demonstrations involving UAS, including ScanEagle. The most recent demonstration utilizing ScanEagle was a multi-partner simulated search and rescue exercise conducted over the Northwest Passage in July 2015.

During a separate demonstration in partnership with the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf in May 2013, ScanEagle operations spanning nine days yielded two interdictions resulting in the seizure of more than 600 kilograms of cocaine and six detainees who were later prosecuted.

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