A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the flight deck aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS
Comstock in the Persian Gulf May 20. The Coast Guard Research and Development Center will begin test trials of the
ScanEagle in March to see if it is suitable for operations from the National Security Cutter.
The Coast Guard, which is under the umbrella of
the Department of Homeland Security, was the lead
federal agency in charge of the response to, and
cleanup of, the oil spill.
During his Oct. 4 testimony before the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sub-
committee on Coast Guard and maritime transporta-
tion, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., Coast Guard comman-
dant, said scrapping the original UAV project in 2007
delayed the service attaining UAS capabilities, but it
was “unquestionably the right decision.”
Papp said the service continues to work with the
U.S. Navy and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
to leverage UAS development as the Coast Guard eval-
uates smaller systems that have successfully operated
from Navy assets.
“While this smaller UAS will not be able to meet all
of our requirements, for a limited investment we anticipate it will expand our surveillance capabilities from
the NSC while we continue to develop a concept of
operations to leverage emerging UAS technology,”
Papp said in his opening statement.
The UAS has not been a talking point for Papp during much of the year, as he has focused more on icebreaker capabilities and infrastructure needs in the
Arctic. But the UAS could move to the forefront during
budget-related hearings over the next several weeks in
preparation for delivering the fiscal 2013 budget to
Congress in February.
The Coast Guard and CBP formed a joint UAS program
office in November 2008, as the agencies have operators
that jointly fly the Northrop Grumman MQ- 9 Predator B
UAS, the Guardian, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Capt. Jim
Sommer, deputy director of the Coast Guard UAS Joint
Program Office, said during the panel discussion. The
Coast Guard currently has eight pilots and four sensor
operators qualified to operate an unmanned aircraft.