Coast Guard Releases Request For Proposal For Long Range UAS Tech Demonstration

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 has issued a Request for Proposal for demonstration of a Long Range/Ultra-Long Endurance (LR/U-LE) Unmanned Air System (UAS).

The Statement of Work (Attachment_1_-_Statement_of_Work_.pdf) indicates demonstration is expected to take place at Eglin Air Force Base. “The period of performance will be one year from the date of award which is estimated to occur in September 2018.”

The Requirements

The sensor package will include Electro-optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) Full Motion Video (FMV), Maritime Surveillance Radar, Radio Frequency/Direction Finding (RF/DF) sensor, with tactical communications radio/data link.

Minimum airframe performance in the full up configuration include 50 knot patrol speed, 15,000 foot ceiling, 24 hour endurance.

Takeoff and Recovery Wind Limits are 20 knot headwind, seven knot crosswind, and up to five knot gusts.

For identification the airframe will be equipped with Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System, Identification Friend or Foe, Mark XII/Mark XIIA, Systems (AIMS) certified (AIMS 03-1000A) Mode 3 A/C transponder with “IDENT” capability.

Commentary

Presumably this will result in a RFP for a land based LR/U-LE UAS, but probably not before FY2021.

The specifications make it clear the Coast Guard is not looking at obtaining their own version of the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) MQ-4C Triton UAS.

I would note that the demonstration provides no slack for trade-offs between search width, speed, and endurance to determine total area searchable. The 24 hour endurance is fixed. There is also no dash speed requirement. To me this suggest that the system is more for tracking than searching, although it could also do that as well.

There is also no mention of ViDAR as an alternative to Radar.

Given distance to operating area and the relatively slow speed of these assets, to maintain an asset on scene is going to require more than one sortie per day, probably more like two per day. That suggest that a 24/7/365 on scene capability will require five or six airframes.

Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 VTOL UAV and the Oceanwatch PT-8 Sensor

A recent announcement that the PT-8 Oceanwatch image-based wide area maritime search system has been integrated with the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 vertical take-off and landing UAS, prompted me to take another look at this system. (Manufacturer’s brochure here.)

There have been numerous improvement since the introduction of the S-100 over a decade ago. It has been integrated with more sensors including a synthetic aperture radar. A heavy fuel engine compatible with  JP-5, Jet A-1 or JP-8 jet fuels is now optional, as a replacement for the original gasoline engine. Using an auxiliary fuel tank it now possible to extend its normal six hour endurance to up to 10 hours.

This Oceanwatch PT-8 sounds a lot like a “ViDAR” (Visual Detection and Ranging) that has been tested by the Coast Guard.

The S-100 is very widely used. Operators or those who are buying the system include the German Navy, the French Navy, the Italian Navy, the Australian Navy, and the Chinese Navy. The Russian Coast Guard uses a license built version.

They have been testing sense and avoid capability.

The S-100 at 440 pounds max take-off is about nine times greater than that of the 48.5 pound ScanEagle, but less than a seventh that of the MQ-8B Fire Scout (3,150 lb). It doesn’t have the  endurance of the ScanEagle, but with a ten times larger payload (75 lb vice 7.5 lb), given better sensors, it may be able to search a larger area per sortie. With a higher speed (120 knots max vice 80) it can get to a probability area and search it faster.

 

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.

Industry Input Sought On UAS Technology Demonstration–CG-9

Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flies on a simulated Navy aerial reconnaissance flight near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) off the coast of southern California on Dec. 5, 1995. The Predator provides near, real-time infrared and color video to intelligence analysts and controllers on the ground and the ship. This is the Predator’s first maritime mission with a carrier battle group. The UAV was launched from San Nicholas Island off the coast of southern California. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey S. Viano, U.S. Navy.

Below is a report from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9):

Industry Input Sought On UAS Technology Demonstration

April 6, 2018

The Coast Guard on March 26 released a draft solicitation for long range/ultra-long endurance (LR/U-LE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology demonstration and flight services requirements. Industry is invited to submit questions, comments and feedback on draft items including the statement of work, proposal requirements and evaluation methodology. The draft solicitation is available here.

The draft solicitation is part of congressionally directed market research to examine the feasibility, costs and benefits of using land-based LR/U-LE UAS to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Responses are due by April 9 at 5 p.m. EST. The formal solicitation for the contract is planned for release later this spring.

 

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

As noted earlierThe Air Force has recently decided to retire all their MQ-1 Predator UAVs replacing them with the MQ-9 Reaper. Perhaps we could get a near term interim capability and gain valuable experience by taking over some of the Air Force Predators and modifying them for a Maritime role..

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

Canadian Navy Buying Small UAS For Coast Defense Ships

HMCS Saskatoon, a Kingston class Coastal Defence Vessel, near Esquimalt, British Columbia and A CH-149 Cormorant helicopter that is practicing personnel transfers.
Date March 2007
Photo by Rayzlens

Seapower Magazine (on-line) is reporting that Canada will equip its Coastal Defense ships with the Puma AE RQ-20B small unmanned air system (sUAS). These ships of the Kingston class, are a bit smaller than the Coast Guard’s 210 foot cutters and have no flight deck.

These ships frequently cooperate with the Coast Guard in drug interdiction operations, with a USCG Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) on board.

The Coast Guard has some experience with the Puma UAS as it has flown from USCGC Healey, and from USCGC Chock as part of a demonstration

John Ferguson and Chris Thompson, Unmanned Aircraft System operators for AeroVironment, release a Puma All Environment UAS from the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy during an exercise in the Arctic Aug. 18, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

Below can be seen the Mantis i45 sensor as installed on the Puma sUAS

Mantis i45 sensor

This might be a candidate for a sUAS to operate from the Webber class WPCs. I can see some useful scenarios, such as providing overwatch while doing a law enforcement boarding, but I still think we need something more capable of providing a more persistent and more wide-ranging search. Still a combination of a sUAS like this and the TALONS (Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems) might be very effective. The recovery methods I have seen so far, for this system, either landing on the flight deck of an icebreaker or landing in the water don’t seem satisfactory.

Still I would suggest we take a look at what the Canadians are doing. We might want to send an R&D rep who has participated in our previous examination of sUAS to ride one of these ships during the last half of a drug interdiction patrol, so they can get input from both the Canadians and the LEDET.

 

RfP for Services/Textron’s Aerosonde sUAS

Seapower, a Navy League Magazine and web site, reports, the Coast Guard issued a Request for Proposal on February 7, for “Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Competitive and Unrestricted Commercial Services Combined Synopsis/Solicitation for Unmanned Aircraft Systems for National Security Cutters (NSCs) for the United States Coast Guard.” Proposals are due by March 9. (Pretty quick turn around.)

In particular they identify two competing systems, the Scan Eagle from Insitu and Textron Systems Aerosonde sUAS. We have been talking about the Scan Eagle for almost seven years. Also the Coast Guard has been using Scan Eagle operationally, but since we have not talked about the Aerosonde I thought, perhaps we should take a look.

There is a pdf brochure on the Aerosonde here.

The Aerosonde is a bit bigger than the Scan Eagle, but if a larger aircraft is needed then Insitu has the option of offering the RQ-21 Blackjack which is in the Navy’s inventory. 

For a rough comparison, Scan Eagle has a max Take Off Weight 44-48.5 lb. (22 kg), Aerosonde has a max TO weight of 80 lb (36.4 kg), and the RQ-21A Blackjack a max TO weight of 135 lb (61.4 kg).

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. Mesa Verde is underway conducting exercises. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine/Released) 130210-N-NB538-195

“The U.S. Coast Guard customer has expressed unique technology and operational requirements in its Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) RfP,”  so we are not simply going to buy what the Navy already has. Using the usual optical systems is like looking through a straw. I expect the Coast Guard is going to want an area search capability, radar or perhaps ViDAR.

Figuring out how best to use these is going to be an interesting Operations Research problem. What search pattern? at what altitude? How far out can we fly these and still communicate and have the cutter provide sense and avoid to prevent a mid-air?

Drone Rescue

An interesting short video. Heard about this first from BBC. (Thanks to my wife.)

A drone reaches people in the water and drops an inflatable float. This might be useful as a response to a man-over-board, particularly if the drone were equipped with low light level/IR. The drone could not only drop a float but could also hold position over the person in the water until the ship can come back for a pick-up. A light on the drone might help.