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The US Coast Guard recently completed the system operational verification testing of a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, a national security cutter warship (NSC) based in California. The Coast Guard is pursuing the sUAS acquisition to provide persistent, tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to enhance the cutters’ effectiveness.
The Stratton crew and UAS program officials tested the power, communications, launch and recovery systems that the sUAS is made from in order to ensure that all parts functioned as needed and to identify areas requiring improvement. According to uasvision,com, the full system includes an aircraft, a ground control station and an antenna. All the system components contain the necessary fiber optic cables needed to communicate with the aircraft.
The testing prepared the Coast Guard for the sUAS deployment on the Stratton planned to be carried out this winter, data from which will help the service assess how to make the most of sUAS capabilities on patrol while minimizing risk. The initial deployment will use ScanEagle sUAS capability obtained through a June 2016 order on a pre-existing multiple-award contract executed by the Naval Air Systems Command.
The Coast Guard will use the deployment data to refine the concept of operations and requirements for installing and integrating future systems across the NSC class. These requirements will inform a request for proposal for sUAS for NSC capability, planned for release by the end of fiscal year 2017.
The service is also looking into the possibility of integrating the new device into other operations. Lessons learned from the integration of sUAS capability on the NSCs will guide future procurement of systems on other cutter classes. “The upcoming deployment is going to inform the sUAS for NSC strategy, and the eventual sUAS for NSC solution is going to inform the Coast Guard’s long-term sUAS strategy,” said Jeff Bishop, UAS program manager.
The acquisition of sUAS for the NSCs is in the Analyze-and-Select phase, which involves establishing operational requirements, evaluating acquisition approaches and assessing the merits of each approach.