“Coast Guard RDC evaluates Beyond Visual Line of Sight technology for UAS” –CG-9

V-Bat from Martin UAV

The Acquisitions Directorate has a post, duplicated below, reporting on evaluation of a “Detect and Avoid” (DAA) system mounted on a small unmanned air system (sUAS). To me, the most significant part of the report is at the end,

“What’s on the horizon? Future evaluations will be focused on two capabilities:

  • “Investigating DAA technologies incorporated onboard a long endurance UAS capable of operating for 6.5 hours. This effort will support future UAS operations with Coast Guard vessels not equipped with a flight deck. (emphasis applied–Chuck)
  • “Evaluating vertical takeoff and landing UAS equipped with DAA technologies for operating onboard cutters with a flight deck.”

Operating UAS from non-flight deck equipped cutters is good news. (WPCs, WPBs, and maybe buoy tenders? Apparently they are operating from a 45 foot Response Boat-Medium.) The specificity of the “6.5 hours” operating capability must mean they are looking at a particular system.

Possibly related:


Aviation Branch personnel Evan Gross and Taylor Kall from the Coast Guard Research and Development Center prepare an AeroVironment Puma unmanned aircraft system equipped with the Passive Acoustic Non Cooperative Aircraft Collision Avoidance System for launch at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. U.S. Coast Guard photo.


The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) is evaluating Detect and Avoid (DAA) technologies to enable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) without relying on Coast Guard cutter systems for clearing airspace.

Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules prohibit UAS in national airspace under visual flight rules because UAS cannot detect and avoid other aircraft. DAA technologies may provide one solution to meet national airspace requirements, allowing the Coast Guard to expand its use of UAS to maintain better awareness of activities in the maritime domain.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a pathway for UAS to operate BVLOS for both flight deck-equipped cutters and smaller vessels without a flight deck, providing a tool to increase mission effectiveness for Coast Guard surface operations,” said Steve Dunn, a researcher with the RDC Aviation Branch who is leading this effort.

In addition to supporting operation of UAS to cover greater distances at sea and patrol operational areas from land-based stations, DAA/BVLOS technology could increase Coast Guard efficiency by eliminating the need for a dedicated air direction controller to keep UAS clear of other aircraft.

Acoustic signature system

The RDC evaluated a DAA acoustic signature system called Passive Acoustic Non Cooperative Aircraft Collision Avoidance System (PANCAS) in August 2020 at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The objective was to capture audible range data on how far the UAS could detect other aircraft to support future commands for UAS operators to avoid other airborne targets.

The PANCAS technology uses sound rather than radar and computer vision to detect things in its airspace. It has the potential to be used by UAS operators located on cutters or at land-based units, covering the full range of UAS operations.

PANCAS looks for an acoustic signature to identify aircraft in its vicinity and alert the UAS operator, who can then take evasive action to avoid the other aircraft. This equipment is also an example of a passive technology, meaning it is constantly listening for an acoustic signature and has 360 degree listening range. This technology may prove to be an alternative to active transmitters, which may not have 360 field of view and possibly require a lot of power from the UAS’s limited power supply.

The PANCAS evaluation was very successful; however, the technology is not at the stage where it can be submitted to the FAA for approvals. Additional engineering will be done to integrate waterproof microphones into the UAS wing, enabling the system to land in the water.

An AeroVironment prototype long-range directional antenna (left) was evaluated for its ability to extend the range of UAS operations using ground control stations at Air Station Cape Cod and onboard a Station Cape Cod Canal response boat (right). U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Long-range directional antenna

The RDC utilized a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement in November 2020 to evaluate a long-range directional antenna developed to extend the operational range of an AeroVironment Puma UAS. With the antenna, the RDC was able to successfully operate the Puma out to a range of 31 nautical miles. For this evaluation, the RDC team established two ground control stations — one land-based unit at Air Station Cape Cod and one onboard a response boat from Coast Guard Station Cape Cod Canal.

The evaluation was successful and proved the antenna’s viability for ground-based operations; data gathered will help support future BVLOS operations using DAA technologies. The demonstration also validated the need for a 360-degree directional antenna for BVLOS operations by the Coast Guard boating community. The RDC team is investigating further partnerships involving directional antennas to provide that capability.

The ability to operate smaller UAS such as a Puma farther away from Coast Guard vessels may unlock the full potential of UAS, providing a force multiplier for non-flight deck equipped cutters. Extending the range and flight time of smaller UAS are key factors for operating BVLOS.

What’s on the horizon?

Future evaluations will be focused on two capabilities:

  • Investigating DAA technologies incorporated onboard a long endurance UAS capable of operating for 6.5 hours. This effort will support future UAS operations with Coast Guard vessels not equipped with a flight deck.
  • Evaluating vertical takeoff and landing UAS equipped with DAA technologies for operating onboard cutters with a flight deck.

The goal of both efforts is to obtain an FAA Certificate of Authorization to use DAA technologies for operating BVLOS. The RDC plans to continue evaluations through early 2023; however, schedules may be impacted by COVID-related travel restrictions.

Puma UAS equipped with PANCAS flying with an Air Station Cape Cod HC-144. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

For more information: Research, Development, Test and Evaluation program page and Research and Development Center page.

“New Drone Surveillance System to be Deployed on Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Trials Funded by DRDC” –Kongsberg Geospatial

Image credit: Kongsberg Geospatial

Below is a news release from .Kongsberg Geospatial. It talks about a demonstration of their sensor data management system, called MIDAS, to be conducted with the Canadian Coast Guard, in conjunction with the Martin UAV V-BAT fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

What really got my attention is that their illustration, above, appears to indicate that they expect to operate the V-BAT from Hero Class Cutters. These cutters are closely related to the USCG Webber class, but are smaller, 14 feet shorter and over three feet narrower. If they do succeed in operating it off the Hero Class, then we should also be able to operate it off the Webber class cutters.

We have talked about V-BAT before, and in fact, it was operated for a short evaluation from USCGC Harriet Lane. You can read about V-BAT here and here.

Sounds like a very interesting demonstration. Perhaps CG R&D could send an observer.


New Drone Surveillance System to be Deployed on Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Trials Funded by DRDC

Ottawa, CA: Kongsberg Geospatial announced today that it has been selected by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) to conduct trials of a new long-endurance UAV surveillance system for the Canadian Coast Guard. The Martin UAV V-BAT aircraft was selected to provide the unique ability to combine take off and landing from the small confines aboard ship with the long endurance of a fixed-wing aircraft while carrying multiple sensors.

Combining a unique Vertical Take-off aircraft and new sensor data PED solution allows for rapid collection and analysis of sensor data

The aircraft will communicate with the Kongsberg Geospatial sensor data management system, called MIDAS, which allows a range of sensor data, including full-motion video from unmanned systems to be processed and exploited in near real-time by analysts on board Canadian Coast Guard ships. MIDAS provides the capability to compare historical and live data from the mission area, and to examine sensor data with a variety of tools, including motion and object detection, in near-real time. This near real-time analytical capability can greatly enhance the effectiveness of UAVs for a variety of mission types.

The V-BAT Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) provided by Martin UAV is a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft specifically designed to operate from very small spaces on ships, land, and nearly any environment. The V-BAT is a long-endurance aircraft capable of carrying multiple sensors, including land and maritime wide area surveillance.

Kongsberg Geospatial’s MIDAS is derived from technologies created for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance project which required the storage and retrieval of vast amounts of intelligence data for Intelligence Analysts. The system directly addresses the problem that the vast majority of UAVs have no standards-compliant capability to process, exploit, and distribute (PED) their sensor data where it is being used. MIDAS provides a fully standards-compliant system that allows intelligence analysts to view, process, and analyze sensor data in near real-time, from where the drone is being operated. MIDAS has packaged these capabilities into a tactical and portable form factor to enables those surveillance capabilities to be deployed as a portable system on board a ship, or in a temporary command post.

CINTIQS Military Technology Consulting will be providing consulting services for the planning and conduct of the flight trials and sensor employment to validate systems performance.

The combination of the Martin UAV V-BAT and the Kongsberg MIDAS sensor data management system will allow Coast Guard vessels to significantly expand their surveillance range for search and rescue missions, and for the surveillance of the movement of icebergs, without requiring the use of manned aircraft.

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“UAVs are a useful tool, but they only truly effective if they can collect sensor data that results in actionable intelligence”, said Ranald McGillis, President of Kongsberg Geospatial. “Our MIDAS system allows users to fully exploit raw sensor data, and derive useful intelligence at the tactical edge where the UAV is being used. In a search and rescue context, that could mean using infrared sensors, or near real-time motion detection to locate a subject when visibility or weather conditions are poor.”

About Kongsberg Geospatial: Based in Ottawa, Canada, Kongsberg Geospatial creates precision real-time software for mapping, geospatial visualization, and situational awareness. The Company’s products are primarily deployed in solutions for air-traffic control, Command and Control, and air defense. Over nearly three decades of providing dependable performance under extreme conditions, Kongsberg Geospatial has become the leading geospatial technology provider for mission-critical applications where lives are on the line. Kongsberg Geospatial is a subsidiary of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

Media contact: 1-800-267-2626 or reach us by email at info@kongsberggeospatial.com

About Martin UAV: Based in Plano, TX, the mission of Martin UAV is to build the world’s most advanced unmanned systems. Our technology team specializes in building tactical systems from the ground up, addressing the vast capability gaps left by legacy technologies and current government programs of record around the world. With decades of research and development, our platforms offer cutting edge applications and engineering feats unmatched in the government or commercial sectors of today.

About CINTIQS: Based in Ottawa, Canada, CINTIQS is a veteran-owned and operated MilTech (Military Technology) business focused on helping Canadian technology companies solve the problems that matter most to those in uniform. CINTIQS represents the highest concentration of tactical, operational, and strategic-level military intelligence expertise in Canada. In combination with their technical and industry/business depth, the company provides the expertise you need to succeed in the ultra-competitive global defence market.

About the Canadian Coast Guard: Headquartered in Ottawa, the Canadian Coast Guard is the coast guard of Canada. Founded in 1962, the coast guard is tasked with marine search and rescue, communication, navigation and transportation issues in Canadian waters, such as navigation aids and icebreaking, marine pollution response and providing support for other Canadian government initiatives. The coast guard operates 119 vessels of varying sizes and 22 helicopters, along with a variety of smaller craft.

About DRDC: Based in Ottawa, Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada is the Department of National Defence’s and Canadian Armed Forces’ science and technology organization. DRDC develops and delivers new technical solutions and advice for not only DND/CAF, but also other federal departments, and the safety and security communities.

Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (globalsecurity.org)

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

“SEA CONTROL 219 – USCG COMMANDANT ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ” –CIMSEC

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

Sea Fighter Analysis, U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, 2007

“Sea Fighter” in Coast Guard colors

Thought perhaps this study might be of interest, and did not want to loose the link to the study. Some of the conclusions seem to bear on any discussion of the important characteristics of Coast Guard cutters, particularly as our Maritime Domain Awareness improves.

Characteristics such as speed, crew size, deployable surface and air assets, and requirements for a reconfigurable mission bay would influence the design of any possible future Cutter X. In terms of deployable air assets, it is likely a helicopter/UAS combination would be preferable to the two helicopters considered here, and would make it easier to provide hangar space.

Any requirement for extremely high speed requires careful consideration of the attendant consequences, as we have seen in the LCS program, but we have known how to reliably get speeds up to 33 knots for decades.

I have provided the Executive Summary below.

(Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.)


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction/Objective

The U.S. Coast Guard (CG) Research and Development Center (R&DC) evaluated the U.S. Navy’s Sea Fighter vessel for potential applicability to CG missions. When compared to other CG cutters, Sea Fighter has four unique capabilities/characteristics that could significantly impact CG mission effectiveness:

  • High-speed (50 kts)
  • Multiple deployable surface and air assets (three 11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) (Cutter Boats Over-The-Horizon (CB-OTH)) or five 7m RHIBs (Short Range Prosecutors (SRP)), two HH-60s or two HH-65s, and multiple Vertical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VUAVs))
  • Small crew size (26 persons)
  • Reconfigurable Mission bay (accommodates 12 mission modules)

Methodology

This project evaluated Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities through a combination of engagement modeling and simulation, human systems integration modeling, and Sea Fighter crew and shiprider insights (following multiple R&DC operational test and evaluation exercises).

Results

High-speed and multiple deployable assets were evaluated using engagement modeling. Scenarios were developed to simulate fishing-like vessels (lower speed with higher density) and drug smuggling-like vessels (higher speed with lower density). The results of the analysis showed that by themselves high-speed and multiple deployable assets made little improvement in mission effectiveness. However, as Sea Fighter’s sensor detection range and/or its off-board detection capability (a vital contributor to maritime domain awareness (MDA)) improved, highspeed and multiple deployable assets did lead to significant improvements in mission effectiveness. In the simulated scenarios, improving components of MDA (off-board detection capability) was the critical performance driver, followed closely by increasing intercept speed (from 30 to 50 kts) and increasing the number of deployable assets from two to four (particularly increasing the number of deployable helicopters). These improvements result in an almost 30 percent increase in the number of high-speed targets that can be boarded.

Crew size, required functions, and fatigue associated with a typical CG patrol were evaluated through human system integration (HSI) modeling. With Sea Fighter’s highly automated bridge and engine room, a 26-person crew can sustain many of the required functions. For a typical 14-day patrol, Sea Fighter’s crew could sustain normal Condition-3 watches, multiple boardings (some simultaneously), and multiple VUAV launches. However, HSI modeling showed that Sea Fighter’s crew could not sustain regularly scheduled helicopter flight operations.

To account for these deficiencies, the crew was optimized by adding two boatswain mates and a six-person detachment—Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), or Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT). This 28+6 optimal crew was able to sustain all required functions. In a typical 14-day patrol scenario, the 28+6 optimal crew averaged three boardings, two helicopter sorties, and three VUAV sorties each day without exceeding acceptable fatigue levels.

Finally, crew and shipriders provided firsthand observations and insights relative to Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities. Some key insights are:

  • High-speed capability is a distinct advantage in a vessel accomplishing any law enforcement mission and is especially effective at intercepting fast, evasive, and uncooperative targets.
  • Sea Fighter’s ride quality at low speed (less than 15 kts) is very poor and can adversely affect operations or activities; however, ride quality significantly improves at higher speeds (20+kts). The trade off is largely due to hull design consideration made during Sea Fighter’s planning phase.
  • RHIB launch and recovery is limited to 5 kts due to the poorly designed stern ramp and vessel movements at low (less than 15 kts) speeds.
  • A crew of 26 is too small for typical CG operations.
  • Overall, ship layout and configuration are excellent. Bridge layout affords excellent visibility, internal communications, and improved situational awareness with all underway watchstanders located on the bridge. Flight deck lighting, configuration, and manning are exceptional from both a crew and pilot perspective.
  • Sea Fighter’s mission bay can provide remarkable mission flexibility, especially for deployable teams such as MSRTs or MSSTs. However, spaces for 12 mission modules seem a bit excessive for CG needs. In addition, the design of the X-Y crane prohibits moving payloads (including extra 11m or 7m RHIBs) while underway.

Conclusion

A 50-kt Sea Fighter-like vessel with four deployable assets (two 11m OTH RHIBs and two HH60 helicopters) can provide significant performance improvement compared to a traditional 30-kt CG vessel (CG High-Endurance Cutter (WHEC) or CG Patrol Boat (WPB)).

A highly automated Sea Fighter-like vessel, with the crew size of a patrol boat, provides more mission capability than a WHEC. The ModCAT hullform and large mission bay provide excellent flexibility for emerging CG missions and demands. Sea Fighter’s speed and multiple deployable asset capability offer outstanding performance improvement potential for the CG; however, a critical enabler is improving detection capabilities – an element of maritime domain awareness. As MDA improves, a 50-kt patrol vessel capable of deploying four assets could provide a tremendous improvement over current and future 30-kt vessels.

Recommendations

The CG needs to continue to evaluate non-standard hull forms such as ModCAT-type vessels for both speed and modularity purposes. High-speed vessels normally have endurance problems based on their fuel consumption rates. This has been one of the perceived shortcomings of this hullform type. However, the ModCAT hullform (i.e. Sea Fighter) provides very good fuel economy and, given the typical patrol profile (12 kt patrol speed, 20 kt transit speed, and 50 kt intercept speed), the vessel is capable of remaining within the patrol area for an entire patrol period. Opportunities exist for the CG to further evaluate other Navy/DOD high-speed vessels (HSV) such as the M88 Stiletto for MSRT type missions and the HSV platforms, HSV Swift and HSV Joint Venture, for extended duration missions.

Additionally, the CG should look at ways to optimize the number and type of deployable and off-board assets through a more detailed M&S analysis. A 50 kt Sea Fighter-like cutter with four deployable assets (e.g., two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60 helicopters) can provide significant mission performance improvement compared to a standard 30 kt cutter. To maximize the benefit from embarking four deployable assets (two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60s), a revised approach to boardings would need to be established. Currently, boardings are to be conducted within two hours from the WHEC (at the WHEC’s maximum speed). Under the MSRT CONOPs, the boarding teams would need to be trained similar to MSRTs which are able to defend themselves while conducting a boarding at greater distances from the patrol vessel.

The CG needs to continue to incorporate more automated systems on-board cutters, but have contingency plans (both personnel and equipment) in place for changes in operational requirements or causalities. In order to derive optimal mission effectiveness, the patrol cutter must be able to safely navigate and operate deployable assets in varying sea states and at a reasonable speed. Sea Fighter’s automated systems allow for these evolutions to be conducted with fewer crew members and with an acceptable margin for safety.

“GPS unreliability” –Maritime Reporter & Engineering News – November 2020

A short explanation of why we need to get on with providing a terrestrial alternative to the GPS system by Dennis L. Bryant, Capt. USCG (retired).

Reportedly GPS can be spoofed for as little as $300.

With the Coast Guard’s increasing use of drones that use GPS navigation, its not unlikely drug smugglers will start spoofing GPS. We should be ready to detect such efforts and perhaps home in on them. Maybe need an inertial navigation alternative on our UAVs? (Not really sure what we are using right now.)

“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.

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“MQ-9B SeaGuardian Maritime UAV: Which Missions ? Which Customers ?” –Naval News

MQ-9B Seaguardian during the maritime capabilities demonstration flight over Southern California waters in September 2020. GA-ASI picture.

NavalNews reports on the Maritime version of the Predator UAV, the MQ-9B Seaguardian, including its sensors and market success.

In addition to different sensors, this model is different from the MQ-9s that the Coast Guard has flown with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in that they are intended to operate in civilian airspace. CBP has been operating MQ-9 UAVs for 15 years.

Congress seems not only willing to support Coast Guard operation of land based medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAVs like the Seaguardian. They are actually pushing the Coast Guard. They can not seem to understand why we have not done it already.

In addition to the possibilities of use in the drug transit zones, these long range, long endurance aircraft could be especially useful in detecting IUU activity in the Western Pacific where there normally are no Coast Guard air assets.