Coast Guard to Test ScanEagle Drone for Ship-Based Operations

By Stew Magnuson

TAMPA, Fla. — The Coast Guard will test a small unmanned aerial vehicle that the Navy has used for the past six years in an effort to come up with a stopgap solution to its long-standing need for an unpiloted aircraft to fly off its National Security Cutter.

Bill Posage, who leads the service's unmanned systems program at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, said tests may begin from March to June 2012. The center will use the ScanEagle UAV, which is currently employed by the Navy. The trials will inform the Coast Guard whether a small UAV is feasible. The ultimate aircraft chosen if the program proceeds or may not be the ScanEagle, he said at the Coast Guard's annual innovation expo.

Among the questions the center will seek to answer are how it will be used, where from the ship will it be launched and how it will fit in with other sensor systems, Posage said.

The Coast Guard still wants to deploy a larger vertical takeoff and landing UAV off its National Security Cutters. It has focused its efforts on the Navy FireScout program, but budget problems and a lack of available ships to run tests has stymied progress. It is also committed to operating its own shore-based fixed-wing UAV, said Gary Dehnel, who leads the service's UAV procurement program.

Dehnel has requested funding for one small shipboard UAV system to carry out further operational tests in the 2014 fiscal year budget on one of the National Security Cutters. He projects outfitting two NSCs each year after that with the interim UAVs.

Topics: Maritime Security, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Robotics

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