How Much Do Those Drones Cost?

The Coast Guard is equipping its National Security Cutters with Scan Eagle Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), but has yet to buy the systems. The deployed systems are contractor owned and operated. Should the Coast Guard decide to buy these systems we have a rough indication of the going rate. The RQ-21, referred to in the contract reported below, are similar in concept to the Scan Eagle, but a bit larger (135 pounds max takeoff weight vs 58 pounds).

This from the U.S. Department of Defense Daily Digest Bulletin, Contracts for Sept. 14, 2022.

Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is awarded a $191,835,973 firm-fixed-price modification (P00002) to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N0001922D0038). This modification adds scope to procure 13 RQ-21A Blackjack air vehicles, 25 ScanEagle air vehicles, 48 RQ-21A and ScanEagle payloads and turrets, support equipment, spares and sustainment spares and tools in support of RQ-21A Blackjack and ScanEagle unmanned aircraft platforms for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Foreign Military Sales customers.  Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (88%); and various locations outside the continental U.S. (12%), and is expected to be completed in June 2026. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued.  The Naval Air System Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

It would not be unusual for the Coast Guard to piggy back on a DOD contract to procure these systems.

I can understand the Coast Guard’s decision to contract out rather than buy, because the technology has been moving incredibly fast. At some point in the not too distant future, we should have useful UAS operating from all our patrol vessels down to the Webber Class.

Scan Eagle approaching a ship for its first autonomous recovery, using the Skyhook system. This shows how even very small ships can operate these systems.

9 thoughts on “How Much Do Those Drones Cost?

  1. Chuck, would you care to comment on the progress, achievements and challenges of the ongoing USCG recapitalization efforts (NSCs, FRCs, fixed wing and rotary wing assets, UAS, etc.) vs. the acquisition programs that were proposed for the defunct Deepwater Program. How does the ongoing acquisition stack up against Deepwater in terms of proposed costs and final costs, completion dates, and program of record deliveries,etc?

    • The objectives have not changed much, but deliveries have been long delayed and much of remains to be done. We currently still have no land based UAS system and no operational OPCs. Asking contractors to tell us what we need was frankly stupid but it was a popular choice at the time. We still have not recovered.

      More significantly for the country the Navy still has not recoovered from the dismantling of their in house design and development capability.

    • And where specifically is “Unit Price” mentioned?/! It quotes ~$191.8-Mln. split into 38 “small” and “medium” drones, followed by 13 RQ-21A “Blackjacks” and 25 “ScanEagles”, as well as 48 RQ-21A’s and ScanEagles! Two groupings of Drones, Small and Medium with no description of what Small and Medium actually means, and which grouping types are the “Blackjack” and “ScanEagles” in the Small and Medium description…

      • You miss read it. It 48 drones in total13 Blackjacks and 25 ScanEagles plus 48 sensor packages “48 RQ-21A and ScanEagle payloads and turrets” so 48 fully equipped drones for $191,835,973. Certainly the Blackjacks cost more than the Scan Eagles but it does provide a rough idea for these relatively small drones, about $4M. It provides order of magnitude, not a specific price for each.

      • Forty-eight drones in two different sizes!/? How do you get a Unit Price for one drone if there are two different sizes of drones with different electronic packages for each mission variant…

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