The US Coast Guard announced it has awarded a contract to Insitu Inc. to deliver small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for the service’s national security cutters (NSCs).
Installations of sUAS on NSCs are planned at a rate of about two per year, the coast guard noted adding that the total value of the contract including the seven option years is approximately $117 million.
The service contract covers installation and deployment of sUAS for approximately 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period.
The infrastructure installation needed to accommodate sUAS integration began on Coast Guard cutter Munro in April 2018 and will begin on Coast Guard cutter James in mid-summer 2018. Installation of sUAS hardware will begin on Coast Guard cutters James in fall 2018, Munro in late winter 2019, and Bertholf in late spring or early summer 2019.
The Coast Guard is employing a contractor-owned contractor-operated strategy for this procurement, where Insitu will deploy equipment, pilots and logistics support onboard the NSC to operate sUAS. The US defense department has implemented a similar strategy for maritime UAS services for 700,000+ flight hours.
The Coast Guard is acquiring sUAS capability as a cost-effective strategy to expand the surveillance range of NSCs, using technology that can remain airborne for at least 12 continuous hours per flight. The sUAS will conduct surveillance, detection, classification and identification operations; it will also support prosecution by providing real-time imagery, data, target illumination, communications relay and other capabilities to the NSC and other government platforms as needed.
Pre-procurement activities included the employment of sUAS technology for drug interdiction, living marine resources and search and rescue missions during three patrols on Coast Guard cutter Stratton, an NSC based in Alameda, California. During the more than 700 flight hours completed on those patrols, sUAS capability was involved in 17 drug interdictions resulting in the confiscation of 10,202 kilograms of contraband. Data gathered from the Stratton assessment patrols were used to refine the concept of operations and request for proposal requirements.
The contract award marks a major milestone for the acquisition process. “The sUAS has already proven itself to be a transformational technology on the technology employment, and the deployment of this capability to the entirety of the NSC fleet is an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Office of Aviation Forces. “The Coast Guard is excited to award the contract for the service’s first class-wide sUAS to Insitu.”