Availability, compatibility, affordability frame
Coast Guard’s quest for unmanned aerial capabilities
BY JOHN C. MARCARIO, Assistant Editor
and Waesche, and three more are in
various stages of production.
The Coast Guard expects to have
the last NSC delivered by fiscal 2020.
By then, production of the Offshore
Patrol Cutter (OPC) should have
begun. Both programs are considered flagships of the service’s 25-year
modernization program. There are
no plans, at this time, for the OPC to
have small UAS capabilities.
“The OPC program is not part of
the small UAS concept right now,”
Under its original Deepwater
recapitalization plan, the Coast
The Bell Helicopter Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAV crashed
during testing in 2006 and the program was scrapped
a year later. The service has been examining a number
of UAS options since then, but has been unable to find
one that has the full range of needed capabilities.
“Any system that’s accepted needs to be operationally suitable,” said panelist Cmdr. Patrick DiBari, of the
Coast Guard’s Office of C4ISR (command, control,
communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance
DiBari said three main factors in finding the right
UAS for the Coast Guard are availability, compatibility
During last year’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill
cleanup efforts off the coast of Louisiana, DiBari said
the Coast Guard learned in more detail the sensor
capabilities its UAS will need to have for disaster
response. Those include the ability to detect oil, provide a clear picture of the waterways and be able to
detect deployed oil cleanup booms.
The Coast Guard is looking for an interim solution to getting
unmanned aerial systems (UASs) into the fleet as it continues to
explore options to fill long-term requirements.
; The service wants to have small UASs on all eight National
; Testing of a small UAS will begin in March at the Coast Guard
Research and Development Center.
; There are no plans to outfit the Offshore Patrol Cutters with a
The U.S. Coast Guard will request funding in fiscal 2014 and 2015 to buy one small unmanned aerial system (UAS) for operational testing onboard a National Security Cutter
(NSC). Service leaders have wanted to bring some type
of UAS into the fleet for more than a decade.
The Coast Guard Research and Development Center
in New London, Conn., will continue to evaluate
options for the longer term — possibly the Fire Scout
and the Predator fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) that already are in use with other services.
“What we are also looking at in [this] budget environment is an interim solution for the NSC only, and that
would be some kind of small UAS,” Gary Dehnel, Coast
Guard UAS acquisition program manager, said at the
Coast Guard Innovation Expo Oct. 26 in Tampa, Fla.
He suggested that the small UAS would not attract
as much budget scrutiny from Congress as a larger-scale UAS purchase.
Dehnel, who was part of a panel discussion titled “A
Coast Guard’s UAS: Exploring Operational Suitability,”
said his projection is to potentially have two NSCs
equipped with a UAS per year until all eight have one
onboard. The service has accepted a pair of NSCs, Bertholf