Commandant: Small UAS Makes Coast Guard More Effective in Drug Interdiction
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard commandant said the service’s proof-of-concept operations of small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) has enabled the cutters to improve their tactics for seizing drug-running vessels, including the evidence needed for successful legal prosecution.
In a March 1 press conference at the National Press Club, following his 2018 State of the Coast Guard speech, Adm. Paul F. Zukunft said that in a typical drug-interdiction event, a cutter will send interceptor boats and helicopters to chase and intercept a go-fast boat. The crew of the go-fast boat often has time to throw the drugs overboard, denying the Coast Guard the evidence needed to ensure a successful prosecution of the crew.
With an SUAS airborne, a cutter can stalk a go-fast boat and record with video the crew’s efforts to dispose of the cargo into the ocean, he said.
Tthe Coast Guard has experimented with Boeing Insitu’s ScanEagle UAS on board the National Security Cutter Stratton, from which the UAS participated in several drug interdictions at sea. Stratton currently is on its third deployment with the ScanEagle.
The Coast Guard issued a Request for Proposals (RfP) on the FedBizOps.gov website on Feb. 7 for “Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Competitive and Unrestricted Commercial Services Combined Synopsis/Solicitation for Unmanned Aircraft Systems for National Security Cutters (NSCs) for the United States Coast Guard.”
Insitu and Textron Systems, which have provided hundreds of thousands of hours of ISR services to the Department of the Navy and other customers with the ScanEagle and Aerosonde unmanned aerial vehicles, respectively, are expected to submit proposals for the competition.
Zukunft also said the Coast Guard is looking at “increasing our organic capabilities” with possible acquisition of a land-based, long-range unmanned aerial vehicle.