An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) consists of an unmanned aircraft, its mission payloads, launch and recovery equipment, ground control station, and control and data links. The Coast Guard is preparing to employ UAS to augment the service’s land- and cutter-based aircraft, and expand the surveillance range of surface assets, such as the National Security Cutter (NSC).
Why this project?
The Coast Guard is interested in UAS that can remain on station for extended periods, expand maritime domain awareness, and disseminate actionable intelligence on maritime hazards and threats. By leveraging developmental work completed by other uniformed services and federal government agencies, the Coast Guard is considering cost-effective UAS solutions that meet cutter-based and land-based requirements.
How is the UAS being acquired?
The Coast Guard’s land- and cutter-based UAS acquisition projects are focused on technologically mature systems, commonality with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense programs, and leveraging other agencies’ UAS experience.
Land-based UAS: The Coast Guard has validated a mission need for land-based UAS to significantly enhance ocean surveillance in support of the service’s operations. The Coast Guard is developing the land-based UAS concept of operations and is investigating opportunities to leverage UAS technology to gain efficiencies for the maritime patrol capabilities. Coast Guard land-based UAS flight crews are jointly operating maritime-variant Predator UAS (Guardian) on maritime missions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enhance the Coast Guard’s understanding of potential land-based UAS solutions and support the development of a land-based UAS requirements package.
Cutter-based UAS: Cutter-based UAS are considered part of the total ‘force package’ for the service’s major cutters, including the National Security Cutter (NSC) and planned Offshore Patrol Cutter. The Coast Guard has validated a mission need for cutter-based UAS to significantly expand the field of regard for cutters at sea. The Coast Guard has developed a concept of operations and requirements for small UAS (sUAS) to be deployed on the NSC class. The sUAS for NSC project is in the process of developing project plans and analyzing potential candidates. To support these activities, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) has conducted several demonstrations both from land at onboard NSCs using a ScanEagle UAS. The RDC plans to conduct an additional demonstration early next year to investigate small UAS payloads for maritime missions.