Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), a central Coast Guard operational
concept, refers to the effective understanding of anything associated with
the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or
environment of the United States.
Cutter- and land-based Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) will contribute to MDA by providing persistent, wide area surveillance, along with detection, classification, and identification functions. To accomplish these tasks, UAS payloads will likely include maritime radar, electro-optical and infrared cameras, and an automatic identification system (AIS) receiver, at a minimum.
Tactical, cutter-based UASs augment the operational effectiveness of Coast Guard cutters by extending their surveillance horizon beyond the capabilities of on board sensors and embarked manned aircraft. The Coast Guard is rapidly preparing to employ UASs aboard National Security Cutters (NSCs) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Although a specific system has not yet been selected for procurement, the Coast Guard has already demonstrated small UAS capabilities aboard CGC STRATTON as an initial step for the NSC fleet.
Additionally, the Coast Guard is jointly operating strategic, land-based UASs with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), providing wide area surveillance comparable to that of Coast Guard and joint service maritime patrol aircraft. Not only are these capabilities employed on a daily basis in and near U.S. territorial waters, but also in forward deployed locations via beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) connectivity.
In 2009, the Coast Guard stood up a UAS Standardization Branch at ATC Mobile, an operational UAS cadre at CGAS Corpus Christi, and several program-level billets at headquarters to support these groundbreaking endeavors. These personnel, along with the U.S. Navy and CBP have enabled the Coast Guard to study and operate UAS capabilities and develop tactics, techniques, procedures, and regulations in support of future UAS fielding within the Service.