“Coast Guard releases request for information for medium-range unmanned aircraft systems” –CG-9

Insitu Scan Eagle in Coast Guard colors. Notably the RFI requires, “…the UA shall incorporate low-visibility, counter-shaded paint scheme consisting of FED-STD-595C FS 36320 (or similar) matte gray upper surfaces and FED-STD-595C FS 36375 (or similar) matte gray lower surfaces,” much like an Air Force F-16.

Below is an Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) statement regarding a Request for Information,

The Coast Guard released a request for information (RFI) Aug. 5 to determine the potential sources and the technical capability of industry to provide Group II and Group III unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), capable of deploying from Coast Guard cutters.

The RFI can be found here.

So what are “Group II and Group III unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)?” Wikipedia identifies the groups and provides examples.

  • Group II: Maximum weight 21 to 55 pounds (25 kg); Nominal Operating Altitude <3500 feet above ground level (AGL) (1,067 meters); speed less than 250 knots
  • Group III: Maximum weight <1320 pounds (600 kg); Nominal Operating Altitude < flight level 180 (about 18,000 feet or 5,488 meters); speed less than 250 knots

Notably the Navy’s Fire Scout is a Group IV UAS, so will not be considered. These groups do include both Insitu’s Scan Eagle, currently being used on National Security Cutters and their larger RQ-21 Blackjack. Also included are the V-Bat which has been tested on a Coast Guard WMEC and a number other vertical take-off and landing capable UAS.

The RFI appendix 1, entitled “Draft System Performance Specifications (SPS)” is 11 pages long and provides much more detail. I will mention only some highlights and these are only the minimums, there are also higher objective criteria:

  • Endurance: 12 hours
  • Dash speed: 70 knots
  • Cruise speed: 50 knots
  • Service ceiling: 3,000 feet
  • Range: 40 nmi in clear weather, 35 in light rain
  • The UA shall provide fully automated flight operations, including launch and recovery.
  • The UA shall have space, weight, and power to concurrently operate: Electro-Optical (EO) sensor, Infra-Red (IR) sensor, AIS, VHF/UHF communications relay, aeronautical transponder, and non-visible IR marker. [KPP]
  • At an operating altitude of 3,000 feet when the UAS is directly overhead of the target of interest (no slant range), the UA shall be acoustically non–detectable per MIL STD-1474 (series), Level 1 requirements (quiet rural area with the closest heavily used highway and community noises at least 2.5 miles away).

Notably there is no mention of radar or vidar, although Vidar is an EO sensor currently used by Scan Eagle UAS operating from National Security Cutters. There is also this,

The UA shall be capable of accepting modular payloads. Modular payloads are defined as payloads that can be replaced or interchanged with the previously-installed EO or IR payload(s) within one to two hours (elapsed time). Modular payloads may be government provided.

I did find this interesting, “The UA shall launch and recover while a static MH-65 is spotted with blades unfolded on the flight deck.”

The drawings contained in Appendix 2 indicate that these Unmanned Aircraft are intended for Bertholf class “National Security” cutters. Appendix 1 also sounded like these would be contractor operated, as are the Scan Eagles currently being deployed on National Security Cutters.

Since these specs are not too different from the Scan Eagles already being used on National Security Cutters, the Coast Guard may be just checking the competition to see what else is out there. On the other hand, perhaps some of the requirements may not be being met by the Scan Eagle UAS we are currently using. That the RFI provided only 17 days from issue to deadline for response, suggests the Coast Guard had already been been in communications with “the usual suspects.”


Coast Guard releases request for information for medium-range unmanned aircraft systems

The Coast Guard released a request for information (RFI) Aug. 5 to determine the potential sources and the technical capability of industry to provide Group II and Group III unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), capable of deploying from Coast Guard cutters.

The Coast Guard is interested in UAS that include fully automatic flight operations, have a minimum endurance of 12 hours and can be launched and recovered from a cutter flight deck. For Coast Guard mission success, UAS need to be capable of carrying a payload including electro-optical and infrared sensors and communications relay. Technological readiness level and degree of commonality and interoperability with existing Department of Homeland Security or Department of Defense programs are also of interest.

The full RFI is available here. Responses are due by 1 p.m. EDT Aug. 22.

For more information: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program page

“Sea Air Space 2022” –Naval News Video Coverage

Below I have posted two videos by Naval News, along with the breakdown of topics that accompanied the videos on YouTube. The video of the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 with its included electro-optic fire control system is probably of most immediate interest to the Coast Guard, but the increasing tendency to containerize weapon systems is appears ready to make any cutter (and almost any other ship) a missile carrier.

  • 01:06 – Constellation-class frigate program with Fincantieri Marinette Marine
  • 04:30 – MSI Defence Mark 38 Mod 4 30mm naval gun system
  • 07:53 – Lockheed Martin’s Expeditionary Launching System
  • 09:21 – BAE Systems E-Launcher
  • 09:52 – Kongsberg NSM-HL helicopter launched naval strike missile
  • 00:43 – Kongsberg Hugin Edge UUV
  • 02:27 – General Dynamics Tethered Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • 03:36 – Shield AI’s Hivemind (V-BAT also –Chuck)
  • 05:23 – Saildrone Explorer USV
  • 06:48 – PennState’s 54″ Large Test Vehicle UUV

 

“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.

Martin V-BAT “Guard evaluates new technology for unmanned aircraft system operations” –Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9)

Below I have reproduced a story from the CG-9 Website. To put this into perspective the V-Bat system has a slightly smaller wing span than the ScanEagle (9′ vs 10’3″) and weighs about twice as much (88 lbs (40 kg) vs 44-48.5 lb. (22 kg)), heavier, but still easily handled. There is a skid under the nose to allows the V-BAT to be laid on the deck. Cruise speeds are similar. Dash speed is actually a little higher for the V-BAT (90 vs 80 knots). V-BAT has “Wind Limitations: 20 kt + 5 kt gust spread” for takeoff that should be relatively easy to achieve by adjusting course and speed to minimize wind over deck, but it might be a factor if we want to launch during a chase. V-BAT has a 182cc 15 HP 2-cylinder EFI engine which can use either a Gas-Oil Mix or JP-4/5/8. It has a remote start and can provide 500 watts onboard electrical power. It has a 350 mile range (statute miles I presume, so about 300 nautical miles) and has a highly accurate fuel monitoring system

Martin V-BAT UAV

Interestingly, for operation from say a Webber Class FRC, there is also a smaller electric eV-BAT.

  • Wing Span: 5 ft
  • Length: 4 ft
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • Ceiling: 5k ft
  • Speed: 50 kts
  • Propulsion: 3 HP electric motor

The electric eV-BAT is probably both very reliable and very quiet. I am guessing, based on what I know the technology it has an endurance of about 20 minutes. Its sensors would be limited by the lower payload weight.

Don’t believe any of these smaller UAVs have a “sense and avoid” system to prevent mid-airs so they, and the surrounding air space, has to be monitored while they are airborne.

The News Release:

—-

Guard evaluates new technology for unmanned aircraft system operations

V-BAT vertical take-off and landing

A V-BAT vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system prepares to land on the flight deck of the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead during a C4F “innovation cell” test of the VTOL. Photo courtesy of Martin UAV V-BAT.


The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), Coast Guard Atlantic Area and U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) conducted a collaborative unmanned aircraft system (UAS) pilot program utilizing a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS Aug. 13-14. The pilot program utilized contractor-owned, contractor-operated UAS services on-board Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility for a short-term deployment.

“SOUTHCOM has long had interest in the demonstration of this technology, and we are always looking for opportunities to advance our knowledge of its capabilities,” said Cameron Stanley, command science adviser for USSOUTHCOM. “This was a great opportunity to evaluate the potential use of this technology alongside our critical interagency partners to advance the state of practice and enable our collective response to common operational challenges.”

The Martin UAV V-BAT was used for this program; it is the first-ever VTOL medium range UAS to be evaluated during an operational Coast Guard patrol. Because of the vertical takeoff, a VTOL UAS does not require any additional gear on the flight deck to support operations, unlike other UAS that require launch and recovery devices.

The deployment is providing the RDC invaluable data for supporting future VTOL medium range UAS capabilities and efforts involving Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations. While the evaluation is looking at how successfully VTOL systems take off and land on board a Coast Guard cutter, patrol data can be used to refine the concept of operations and requirements for installing and integrating VTOL UAS across current and future cutter classes.

UAS technology has already proven to be a game changer for the Coast Guard. Information provided by sensors aboard UAS “impacts timelines for obtaining a statement of no objection for boarding vessels, provides situational awareness for boarding crews prior to embarking on targets of interest and provides a better covert means for tracking targets of interest,” resulting in enhanced maritime domain awareness and mission execution, explained Stephen Dunn, RDC aviation research scientist. “The VTOL system takes things a step further by reducing the footprint of the UAS for future Coast Guard cutter acquisitions,” Dunn said.

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