Coast Guard Compass is reporting that the R&D Center has conducted tests of an unmanned aerial surveillance system from the Webber class WPC Richard Etheridge.
The experiment is being done on the cheap, using surplus Marine Corp WASP III UAS.
This particular aircraft is very small (less than a pound), with a maximum speed of about 40 knots, an endurance of about 45 minutes, and a nominal range of 5 km, so it is not going to get very far from the launch platform. Sensors are limited to color and IR video, so it is still like “looking through a staw” in terms of its ability to search, but it might be useful for taking a closer look at targets, without the necessity of moving the CG vessel to intercept, particularly at night; for documenting a drug bust; or for keeping an eye on the disengaged side of a potentially hostile target during a boarding. The recovery method used was to land in the water, but we could certainly do better.
I can’t say I am particularly impressed with what I have seen of the system so far, since I can pick up something similar at the local hobby shop (google “First Person Video”). I have a friend who flies one, including the ability to use GPS to fly way-points and automatically return to the launch point and land, all for less than $1,000, but it is a start and at least it is a recognition of a need and an opportunity.
Still think we could fly Scan Eagle from the WPCs.