HOMELAND SECURITY: Coast Guard Drone Planning

February 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

Coast Guard Makes Plans for Unmanned Aircraft

Customs and Border Protection’s new Guardian UAV with maritime radar at bottom rear of fuselage. CBP  photo (click on picture for larger image)

The U.S. Coast Guard isn’t quite ready to start spending money again on unmanned aircraft.

Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant, says his people are working on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – a sister Homeland Security Department agency – as well as the U.S. Navy.

The Coast Guard and CBP formed a Joint Program Office in 2008 to explore common requirements for a land-based maritime patrol UAS.

In December, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) unveiled a Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle – called the Guardian – equipped with a Raytheon maritime radar system that can monitor surface ships from miles away. The radar is being tested this Spring. “We need to kind of see how that operates before we make a decision on how far to go in getting into a program of record and a production line with CBP.”

He also said the Coast Guard was “drafting behind the Navy” in its development of Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout unmanned helicopter as a shipborne vertical take off and landing UAV.

The Coast Guard hads planned to use the Textron Eagle Eye VUAV to extend the maritime patrolling reach of its new National Security Cutters, but “we thought there was a lot of technical risks associated” with that tilt rotor VUAV and the project was canceled, Allen says.

Adm. Thad Allen (Coast Guard photo)

Instead, the Coast Guard, which the Obama administration is downsizing slightly in its 2011 budget request, is happy to let the Navy take the lead in testing Fire Scout’s radar and ship interfacing. “We’re looking, at some point in the future, at the possibility of taking Fire Scout and doing interface testing with the National Security Cutter,” Allen says.

Eventually, he adds, the Coast Guard would like to get into high altitude, wide area surveillance with a UAS like Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk. But Allen, whose four-year term as commandant ends in May, says the Coast Guard isn’t ready to own one because “of the lack of critical mass we have to support those kinds of systems.”

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Entry filed under: FRIDAY FOTO, Homeland Security, International Crime, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (Feb. 19, 2010) FRIDAY FOTO (Feb. 26, 2010)

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