The US Coast Guard has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a small unmanned air system (SUAS) that will operate from its National Security Cutters (NSC). Insitu, Textron, PAE and Arcturus are among the firms expected to respond to the RFP. Insitu may offer a modified version of its ScanEagle UAV, powered by an Australian-built Orbital Wave N20 heavy fuel engine.
The RFP requires a commerciallyavailable UAV capable of flying 12-hour surveillance missions, providing real-time imagery, data, target illumination, communications relay and other capabilities to an NSC at sea. The contract, expected to be awarded later this year, is for a contractor to carry out SUAS operations from two NSCs with options to expand the scope to the remaining ships of the class.
The Coast Guard is currently operating Insitu contractor-owned contractor-operated ScanEagles from the NSC USCGC Stratton. Last year, Insitu disclosed the initial deployment saw the ScanEagle assist the vessel’s crew on four interdictions, during which illicit contraband valued at $55 million was seized and ten suspected narcotics traffickers apprehended.
Operations will continue through 2018, including an Arctic deployment in the summer. The systems are being used to evaluate shipboard UAV operations, which in addition to the ScanEagle’s standard electro-optical/infrared sensor and datalink include the use of multiple developmental sensor packages intended for visual target and maritime anomaly detection.
Coast Guard UAV imagery has to meet requirements beyond that used by other US services, reflecting its use as evidence in criminal prosecutions.