“sUAS for NSC continues accelerated production schedule” –CG-9

110225-N-RC734-011
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

Below is a story from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) updating the Coast Guard’s acquisition of small Unmanned Air Systems (sUAS), with particular focus on those being used on the Bertholf class cutters.

“,,,2,600 flight hours on 14 NSC patrols” as mentioned below translates to about 186 flight hours per patrol. As I recall, when we were using an attached helicopter for searches, four hours per day was about the best we could expect. It appears that, for the search function, the sUAS at least approximates that of a manned helicopter.

Hopefully, when on interdiction missions, we are using the Operations Research derived search patterns for detecting a non-cooperative moving target, rather than the typical SAR search patterns which assume a non-moving cooperative target.

I have to question the description “narco-terrorists” for those captured. Narcotics trafficers certainly, terrorists, maybe not.


sUAS for NSC continues accelerated production schedule

The unmanned aircraft sensor payload capability is varied based on the Coast Guard’s desired mission and search conditions: MWIR 3.5 is a mid-wave infrared for thermal imaging capability, for use at night or periods of low visibility; EO-900 is a high-definition telescopic electro-optical (EO) imager to zoom in on targets at greater distance; and ViDAR is a visual detection and ranging wide-area optical search system that is a comprehensive autonomous detection solutions for EO video. Courtesy Photo.


The Coast Guard small unmanned aircraft system for the national security cutter (NSC) program recently completed the system operation verification test for the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) installation on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, the sixth NSC to be equipped with UAS capability. This milestone is the latest in a series of key acquisition program activities to accelerate the scheduled for equipping the first eight NSCs with UAS capability. Installations underway on Coast Guard cutters Hamilton and Midgett have expected completions in January 2021 and March 2021, respectively.

Since the first installation, the UAS capability has completed more than 2,600 flight hours on 14 NSC patrols. Since their deployment, UAS platforms have supported 53 interdictions, assisted in the seizure of 48 tons of illicit narcotics worth over $1.2 billion and helped facilitate the capture of 132 narco-terrorists.

The UAS capability on the NSCs has also been used to:

  • Provide real-time damage assessments of the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. This event was the first time the Coast Guard used UAS overland for humanitarian relief efforts; the added surveillance capability allowed the service to focus recovery assets on emergent search and rescue and critical infrastructure needs.
  • Aid a medical evacuation off a container ship in the Bering Sea, saving one life.
  • Aid in a person-in-the-water search and rescue case off Hawaii in September. Work groups are underway to determine how to use UAS for search and rescue in the future.
  • Identify more than 35 Chinese vessels illegally fishing by sorting through 150+ Automatic Identification System contacts in a fishing fleet off the coast of the Galapagos Islands.

The deployment of an UAS-enabled NSC and its comprehensive sensor suite packages can support day and night operations. UAS capability can conduct surveillance, detection, classification and identification of a wide range of targets, and is capable of up to 18+ hours of continuous flight time per day.

The Coast Guard is deploying a contractor-owned, contractor-operated solutions to provide UAS capability onboard the NSCs; the current contract includes options that could extend service through June 2026. The Coast Guard is also conducting preliminary efforts to explore the potential benefits of deploying UAS across several surface, and potentially land-based, platforms.

For more information: Unmanned Aircraft Systems program page

“MARTIN UAV PARTNERS WITH SOUTHCOM ON ENHANCED COUNTER NARCOTICS OPERATIONS” –Press Release

V-Bat from Martin UAV

Below is a press release about a vertical take-off Small Unmanned Air System (sUAS) that we discussed earlier, after it was flown from USCGC Harriet Lane August 13-14, 2020. The deployment reported below occurred shortly before the demonstration on the Harriet Lane.  

We have no indication of how many of the airframes and how many people were people were involved in the demonstration, but the sortie rate appears impressive. Over a 300 day period, the system(s) flew 273 sorties for a total of 1340.7 flight hours. Given that the ship was probably not underway all 300 days, looks like they got at least one sortie per day with an average of 4.9 hours per sortie.


PLANO, Texas, November 10, 2020 – Martin UAV successfully demonstrated the shipboard integration of its V-BAT as well as its impressive maritime capabilities in support of United States Southern Command’s counter-narcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific from October 6, 2019, to July 31, 2020.

Support for the mission included the highly visible Enhanced Counter Narcotics Operations that began April 1 and was kicked off by the President of the United States.

The 10-month mission started with a demonstration of the V-BAT’s small footprint, quick set-up, rapid deployment, and true Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capabilities. Upon successful completion, a technology assessment to support the USSOUTHCOM Exercises and Coalition Affairs Directorate, Long Duration, Long Dwell (LD2) started upon successful completion of the shakedown.

By leveraging commercial off-the-shelf technologies, LD2’s goal is to enhance the execution of the Department of Defense’s strategic objectives. Over the course of the demonstration, the V-BAT flew an unprecedented 273 sorties for a total of 1340.7 flight hours.

“This mission helped catapult Martin UAV’s V-BAT into the maritime environment, showcasing its ability to withstand and perform in tropical conditions, including strong crosswinds and unexpected storms with rain exceeding 10mm per hour,”

– Heath Niemi, VP of Global Sales & Development.
Night Landing with Martin UAV’s V-BAT

About Martin UAV:

Martin UAV is a private, advanced technology company based in Plano, TX. The company specializes in building wholly-unique, unmanned aircraft systems and associated flight control software. The company’s systems are commercially developed to fill critical operational needs in tactical & confined operational environments. Its V-BAT series aircraft is the only single-engine ducted fan VTOL that has the ability to launch & recover from a hover, fly 8+ hours in horizontal flight, and make mid-flight transitions to “hover & stare” at any time throughout a given mission set.

Small Unmanned Systems Used in Response to Hurricane Sally

Below is a news release from the Eighth district. The thing I found surprising, was that in the video below, it reports that three USCG drone pilots flew 95 flights totaling 16 hours and 34 minutes (about 10.5 minutes per flight). You will see some of the drone video below. Above is a better look at the equipment being used.

united states coast guard

 

Video Release

U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Heartland
Contact: 8th District Public Affairs
Office: 504-671-2020
After Hours: 618-225-9008
Eighth District online newsroom

Coast Guard ends 37-day response to Hurricane Sally aftermath on Gulf Coast

This video highlights the Coast Guard's role in marine environmental response operations after Hurricane Sally. Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama on Sept. 16, 2020. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Wargo 

Editors’ Note: Click on image to download high-resolution version.

MOBILE, Ala. — The Coast Guard Sector Mobile Incident Command has concluded a 37-day coordinated response effort to Hurricane Sally along the Gulf Coast, Thursday.

Many parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle sustained damage during Hurricane Sally when it made landfall September 16th as a Category 2 hurricane. Since then, 1,132 vessels have been assessed for potential pollution threat to the environment. All sources of pollutants have been mitigated and contractors continue to conduct salvage operations in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Baldwin Counties. 

The Coast Guard federal on-scene coordinator and the state on-scene coordinator from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection coordinated efforts to remove weathered oil, discovered on a half-mile area of Johnson Beach, Florida, in consultation with Federal Trustees:

  • Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service
  • National Park Service

The impacted area was located on federally designated, critical habitat and marine protected areas as well as being designated as culturally significant to federally recognized tribes.

Coast Guard Sector Mobile Sally Marine Environmental Response (MER) partnered with wildlife response specialists to save the life of a brown pelican. It was found heavily oiled at Day Break Marina in Pensacola, Florida. After a three-week rehabilitation process, it was safely released into the Northwest Florida Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The Coast Guard concluded its response to Hurricane Sally well ahead of our anticipated timeline, ” said Cmdr. Kelly Thorkilson, Coast Guard Hurricane Sally MER incident commander. “Coast Guard members deployed from across the nation, collaborated with our partner agencies, and quickly integrated new technologies which greatly enhanced frontline operations resulting in a more efficient response.” 

There were 148 Coast Guard responders whose combined efforts totaled an estimated 17,630 work hours. Members managed logistics, resources, and operations including; vessel assessments and facilitating the deployment of 11,650 feet of containment boom. Additionally, three drone pilots flew a total of 95 unmanned aerial system flights to pinpoint pollution along the Gulf Coast. 

Any additional pollution incidents should be reported to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

For more information follow us on Facebook and Twitte

 

“Defense Unit Certifies Five Small Commercial UAS for Government Use” –Seapower

Puma LE (long endurance) unmanned aircraft. Photo from Aerovironment

Come September you will be able to get your small unmanned air system off the GSA schedule.

The Navy Leagues magazine Seapower reports that,

“The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a Department of Defense organization that accelerates commercial technology for national defense, announced the availability of five U.S.-manufactured drone configurations to provide trusted, secure small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) options to the U.S. government, the Pentagon said in an Aug. 20 release. “

All Currently Commissioned NSC to Have Small Unmanned Air Systems by the End of the Year

A small unmanned aircraft system operator recovers an sUAS (Scan Eagle–Chuck) after a flight from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in the South China Sea Sept. 16, 2019. The sUAS is capable of flying for more than 20 hours and has a maximum speed of about 60 mph. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn.

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has announced that all eight currently commissioned National Security Cutters should have small unmanned aircraft systems but the end of the calender year (quoted below). Presumably these will be Scan Eagle systems. Intention is to have these on the Offshore Patrol Cutters as well. 

“The Coast Guard’s small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) for national security cutter (NSC) program reached a milestone March 4 when Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, approved a move to full production, called ADE-3. This allows the program to move forward with outfitting the remainder of the Service’s operational NSCs with sUAS capability.

“The Coast Guard awarded a contract June 6, 2018, to Insitu for the procurement of sUAS capability on three NSCs and options to outfit the rest of the NSC fleet in future years. In 2019, the Commandant expressed the service’s intent to accelerate delivery of the capability. The sUAS program office, aided by Naval Information Warfare Center-Atlantic, developed an aggressive strategy to install and employ the sUAS capability onboard all operational NSCs by the end of calendar year 2020. The ADE-3 approval allows the newly implemented schedule to continue as set. The program is currently on track to meet guidance to double installation rates by the end of calendar year 2020.

“Coast Guard Cutters Stratton, James, Munro, Kimball and Waesche are fully outfitted with sUAS capability. Coast Guard Cutters Bertholf, Hamilton and Midgett are all currently being outfitted with the sUAS capability. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf is scheduled to be fully mission capable in summer 2020 with Hamilton and Midgett on track to be completed before the end of the calendar year.

“A UAS consists of an unmanned aircraft, its mission payloads, launch and recovery equipment, ground support equipment, and data and control links. The Coast Guard requires a UAS that can remain on station for extended periods, expand maritime domain awareness and disseminate actionable intelligence on maritime hazards and threats.

“For more information: Unmanned Aircraft Systems program page”

Insitu ScanEagle small Unmanned Air System (sUAS)

“Coast Guard Expedites ScanEagle ISR Services for National Security Cutters” –SEAPOWER

A small unmanned aircraft system operator recovers an sUAS (Scan Eagle–Chuck) after a flight from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in the South China Sea Sept. 16, 2019. The sUAS is capable of flying for more than 20 hours and has a maximum speed of about 60 mph. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn.

The Navy Leagues Seapower web site is reporting that the Coast Guard will have Scan Eagle UAV systems installed on all currently operational National Security Cutters by the end of 2020, and in addition that the systems will be installed on the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

There is a lot of significant information in this report. 

Contractors still control the UAVs.

“Insitu installs the UAVs and their launch-and-recovery equipment and ground-control stations on board the ships, he said. Insitu sends four-person teams to deploy with each ship. They operate the entire system once on board. The teams are fully embedded with their ship’s crew.”

The sensor package.

“A standard pack-out for a deployment is three ScanEagle UAVs, he said. The sensor systems include and electro-optical/infrared camera, a laser pointer, a communication relay, an Automatic Identification System interrogator and Vidar (visual detection and ranging, a surface search capability).”

The increased search capability.

Currier said that before deployment of the ScanEagle the NSC had a scan of 35 miles either side of the ship with its organic sensors.

“With ScanEagle on board, for good parts of the day, you’re up to 75 miles either side of the ship as you’re moving through the sea space,” he said. “ScanEagle is a game-changer.”

“We’ve effectively doubled the search area of a national security cutter,” Tremain said. “We’re he only company flying with Vidar, and we’re surveilling up to 1,000 square miles of open ocean per flight hour, and we’re identifying greater than 90% of the targets.”

You might think these would not be much of an improvement over a ship based manned helicopter, but in fact the helicopter would probably not be air borne searching more than four hours a day, while three Scan Eagles could conceivably maintain a watch 24 hour a day. Additionally a helicopters sensors are probably not as effective as the VIDAR on the Scan Eagle.

Using these for search rather than the helicopter, also means less wear and tear on the helicopter, and that the helicopter is more likely to be available when it is really needed.

“UK Maritime and Coast Guard Agency wants drones for its SAR missions” –Naval News

QinetiQ recently collaborated with MCA for assessing UAV capability for SAR missions (Credit: QinetiQ)

Naval News reports the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) experimentation with Small Unmanned Air Systems (sUAS).

While the USCG has started using sUAS aboard ship and has been experimenting with shore based larger UAS, it sounds like the UK is looking at a niche, the USCG may not have explored.

“Requirements include ability to search for a missing person or vessel up to 10 km away from shore in low-light, misty and/or windy conditions. According to the tender document, potential uses of the UAV also include pollution assessment and law enforcement support.”

A similar use by the USCG could mean equipping units down to the SAR station level with UAS. The UK has, of course, encountered the same problem the US has in providing a sense and avoid capability for its unmanned system to prevent airspace conflicts between manned and unmanned aircraft.

“The MCA vows to « address and remove the regulatory issues and barriers to allow Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight in unsegregated and uncontrolled UK airspace.”

The US FAA has deconflicted use of private (hobby) drones by allowing virtually unrestricted use five miles or more beyond airports and at latitudes of no more than 400 feet above ground level. 400 feet might be adequate for this type of small UAS, in that it provides a horizon distance of over 20 miles.

“IMSAR’s NSP-5 Radar Moving Into Production for RQ-21 Unmanned System” –Seapower Magazine

GULF OF MEXICO (Feb. 10, 2013) Members of the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) test team transport the RQ-21A across the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) after its first flight at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine/Released) 130210-N-NB538-195

The Navy League’s Magazine Seapower reports that “a synthetic aperture/ground moving target Indicator Radar Payload and has been given the prototype designation AN/DPY-2()” for the MQ-21 Blackjack.

The Coast Guard has always wanted their unmanned air system (UAS) to have a radar system and the Scan Eagle that the Coast Guard has contracted for has been tested with a radar from this manufacturer. I am not sure if Coast Guard Scan Eagles are radar equipped, but, if not, it appears that radar equipped small UAS are a definite possibility.

The RQ-21 Blackjack is, like the Scan Eagle, made by Boeing Insitu. It is heavier, 135 lb (61 kg) vs 48.5 lb (22 kg) max takeoff weight, with a correspondingly larger payload weight, but like the Scan Eagle it launches from the same launch and recovery systems.

The radar may be a bit large for Scan Eagle, but apparently not for the Blackjack.

The NSP-5 delivers high-performance capabilities despite its small size, weight and power characteristics. Commercially, the NSP-5 is available in a standard pod configuration that measures 5.4 inches (13.7 centimeters) in diameter and 45.3 inches (115 centimeters) in length, weighs 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms) and consumes 150 watts of power.

Coast Guard Contract for sUAS for Bertholf Class Cutters

Insitu ScanEagle small Unmanned Air System (sUAS)

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has announced a contract award to Insitu, to provide a capability to operate a small unmanned air system from the Bertholf class National Security Cutters.

“…The service contract covers installation and deployment of sUAS for approximately 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period.

“Installations of sUAS capability on NSCs are planned at a rate of about two per year. Total value of the contract including the seven option years is approximately $117 million.”

It does not say which airframe Insitu will be providing. They have more than one, but it is likely to be Scan Eagle which was the small UAS used by Stratton during the trials.

200 hours per 30 day operational patrol period might be 20 sorties of 10 hours each or 25 sorties of 8 hours, but in all probability it will include a few shorter flights to provide documentation and over-watch during boardings. 

The Coast Guard is contracting out the operation and maintenance of the systems rather than training Coastguardsmen to perform these functions. Hopefully, in time that will change.

Also there is no reason these systems should not also operate off of smaller cutters and icebreakers. Operating from 210s should be relatively easy, although it might preclude operating a helicopter, and with a little engineering they could probably operate from Webber class WPCs.

If you want to trace some of the progress on this issue, here are some earlier posts.

Coast Guard Floor Presentations at Sea-Air-Space 2018

3-View line drawing and dimensions of MQ-1B Predator UAV, – Department of the Air Force, Engineering Technical Letter (ETL) 09-1: Airfield Planning and Design Criteria for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), 28 Sept 2009

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) web site has three links that provide information presented at the Navy League’s 2018 Sea-Air-Space Symposium.