Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS)


An AeroVironment Puma All-Environment small unmanned aircraft system is launched from Coast Guard Cutter Chock as part of the Research and Development Center’s Robotic Aircraft for Maritime Public Safety (RAMPS) project. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

The Acquisitions Directorate reports that the Coast Guard is at least looking at small UAS (UAVs for us traditionalists).

“The demonstrations are part of the RDC’s Robotic Aircraft for Maritime Public Safety project, which aims to determine the risks, benefits and limitations of operating commercial off-the-shelf sUAS technology in conjunction with Coast Guard cutters other than the national security cutter.”

Tests of seven systems were conducted on USCGC Chock (WYTL 65602), a 65 foot tug, so you know the systems had to be small. In fact, I have radio controlled airplanes bigger than these. Still, hopefully these are smarter.

An interesting aspect of the trials is that it included test specifically intended to determine if the sUAS would be useful in finding a person in the water. To do this they used a dummy with an enhanced IR signature comparable to that of a person they refer to as a “thermal Oscar.”

While UAVs of this size may have uses, ultimately, I think they will find that the system we need will be something with a radar that will fit on a Webber class, that means something similar to Scan Eagle. Smaller vessels don’t actually need their own UAS, they can be supported by UAS from ashore. Perhaps every SAR station should be able to launch their own UAS to get to scene before the boat arrives. That would require SAR stations to coordinate with Air Traffic Control. USCGC Chock’s sistership, 65 foot tug, USCGC Swivel, by Windwork50

26 thoughts on “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS)

  1. UAV are very exciting.

    I still think there is a “market” for a “sea plane” UAV that could be craned over the side of a ship.

    • Recovery is still the more difficult part of UAV operations. Launch is relatively easy. In the CG-9 post it appears most if not all of the UAVs land (or crash) in the water.

      Scan Eagle make Insitu has developed a system for snagging the UAV out of the air called “Skyhook that has been used on very small vessels. Here is the description from Wikipedia, “It is recovered using the “Skyhook” retrieval system, which uses a hook on the end of the wingtip to catch a rope hanging from a 30-to-50-foot (9.1 to 15.2 m) pole. This is made possible by high-quality differential GPS units mounted on the top of the pole and UAV. The rope is attached to a shock cord to reduce stress on the airframe imposed by the abrupt stop.”

      • The RQ-21 Blackjack is Scan Eagle’s big brother. The same launch and recovery equipment with significantly more payload. The Marines are fielding them, but I don’t know if the Navy is going to deploy them on anything but the amphibious ships.

      • I am aware of how these things are recovered. All I am saying is if we can crane a boat over the side and recover it we can do so with a small air vehicle. Actually if the vehicle is unmanned, watertight, and buoyant it would be simpler to pick up than an open boat full of personnel. A canard design to asset lift, step hull, and folding wings would be good starting point for a design.

    • I have a soft spot in my heart for seaplanes, but they were taken off of ships for a reason. I believe they were too limited by sea state during recovery compared to other options. The same issue exists whether a seaplane is manned or unmanned.

      • I am aware of the problems. But I would suggest a modern unmanned (so sealed) vehicle and even more importantly a computer controlled crane would mitigate those problems considerably.

        Another route would be not to use helicopters but gyrcopters. Nearly all the advantages with a lot of weight saving.

  2. I think UAV’s a perfect for the USCG in terms of using them for over the horizon surveillance work. I can see smaller UAV’s on patrol boats and larger UAV’s like the Scan Eagle on larger cutters.

  3. Ravens and Pumas are launched by hand and land by ditching in the water, avoiding the need for launch and recovery equipment or a flight deck. But this approach is size and weight limited, which means it is payload, endurance, and weather limited. Ravens and Pumas may have limited capability, but they are relatively cheap and easy. They may be worth carrying just to document each VBSS event for evidence and/or public affairs.

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  6. “The Coast Guard announces its intent to enter into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with several companies to evaluate small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) sensors or payloads, to determine their potential use in a maritime environment by first responders and DHS operational components. The Coast Guard will conduct flight testing and evaluations of SUAS under a wide variety of simulated but realistic and relevant real-world maritime operational scenarios, such as: law enforcement; search and rescue; and maritime environmental responses. From our previous solicitations, the Coast Guard is currently considering partnering with AeroVironment, Inc. and solicits public comment on the possible participation of other parties in the proposed CRADA, and the nature of that participation. The Coast Guard also invites other potential non-Federal participants, who have the interest and capability to bring similar contributions to this type of research, to consider submitting proposals for consideration in similar CRADAs.

  7. Pingback: Canadian Navy Buying Small UAS For Coast Defense Ships | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  8. Pingback: New Small UAS, Aerovironment Puma LE | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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