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.
Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics announced today a new partnership with Hike Metal, a world-class manufacturer of workboats based in Ontario, Canada, to integrate Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous vessel control system aboard commercial vessels tasked with search-and-rescue (SAR) missions.
Unmanned is “all the rage,” but once you get on scene, you never know what you will find. The victim you are attempting to help may need medical assistance, they may not be able to move to shelter provided by the boat.
Automated systems could operate like a smart cruise control on your car, navigating to a designated position and even follow the rules of the road. Automated systems can reduce manning requirements, but when the SAR vessel gets on scene, you need the versatility of a human being to respond to the unexpected.
(Writing this feels some how wrong. Am I being reactionary? Isn’t this obvious to everyone? Still felt like I had to say something. Good systems could come out of this, but full autonomy is just too much to expect.)
Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 will start tests with the Norwegian Coast Guard in fall 2019. Schiebel
Seapower Magazine is reporting that the Norwegian Coast Guard is to begin a second set of tests to confirm the usefulness of a vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) for SAR in the Arctic environment.
The UAS, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100, has a max takeoff weight of 200 kg (441 lb), a length of 3.11 m (10 ft 2 in), and a main rotor diameter of 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in). The system is widely used, including operation by the German, Italian, and Chinese Navies and the Russian Coast Guard. (More here). It is much more compact than even the smaller MQ-8B version of Fire Scout which has a max. takeoff weight: of 3,150 lb (1,430 kg), a length of 23.95 ft (7.3 m), and a main rotor diameter of 27.5 ft (8.4 m)
We might want to ask if we could send an observer or at least get the results of their evaluation.
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.
Pulled the following from DefenseOne’s Global Business Brief, an email blast.
Insitu Eyes ScanEagle Exports
Insitu says U.S. Coast Guard plans to expand the use of its ScanEagle surveillance drone might draw international customers.
“It’s an old adage: ‘as goes the Coast Guard, so goes the rest of the navies around the world’,” said Ron Tremain, who works in business development at the Boeing subsidiary, in an interview on Monday. “What I see happening: not only are we already working with a number of international navies, but I see more international navies patterning their [unmanned aerial system] operations after the Coast Guard.”
ScanEagle drones flown from the USCGC Stratton over the past year and a half have helped in the seizure of an estimated $1.8 billion in cocaine. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, in March, announced plans to accelerate the installation of ScanEagle drones on all National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters. Insitu — which owns and operates the Coast Guard’s ScanEagles — is installing the gear for controlling the drones on the service’s ships.
The U.S. Navy started using ScanEagles on its destroyers in 2005. Italy, Britain, Colombia, and Greece are among the international navies using the drone.
In recent weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration granted an Operational Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to allow Coast Guard ScanEagles to fly surveillance missions near the U.S.-Mexico border, Tremain said.
“It’s the very first step in normalizing UAS operations,” he said. “Although a very, very small step, it is significant.”
It now seems obvious that Unmanned Systems (air and possibly surface and subsurface) will play a part in the Coast Guard’s future, but the service has been, perhaps understandably hesitant to commit to any particular system.
Because of the variety of proprietary systems, integrating the control systems into the organization of the controlling unit, particularly ships and aircraft, and then integrating the resulting information into a common operating picture has been problematic.
Eaglespeak reports, it looks like DOD, through the Office of Naval Research, is moving in the direction of a platform agnostic software application that will permit common hardware to control different unmanned system.
This might permit Coast Guard units which commonly control small unmanned aicraft (sUAS) to be quickly adapted to
- Control a much more capable UAS.
- Hunt for mines using unmanned surface (USV) or subsurface (UUV) systems.
- Control optionally manned surface craft to search for smugglers or enhance asset protection.
- Control UUVs towing acoustic arrays, searching for submarines.
- Direct a USV equipped with AIS, lights, and signals into position to serve as a temporary aid-to-navigation.
Dangerroom reports on a new technology being developed for the Navy, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV,. This unmanned surface vessel is intended to dog potentially hostile subs during that awkward period when tensions are high, but before the first shots are fired. The idea is that once the sub is located, one of these unmanned (and at least for now, unarmed) surface vessels will be assigned to trail it using active sonar and other sensors. This should cost less than maintaining a continuous track using Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and would allow manned vessels to avoid coming within range of the sub. If shots are fired, presumably the ACTUV would be the first to go, but it would be a minor loss, and allow the manned vessels to avoid being surprised.
The technology may also have some implications for the Coast Guard. We might see a smaller version of this launched from a cutter to augment the cutter’s radar picture. The technology for this requires developing an artificial intelligence capable of applying the rules of the road–essentially a computer OOD. Some day the Coast Guard may be asked to approve fully autonomous merchant vessels plying the trade routes with no one aboard.