A ScanEagle is launched from a shipboard catapult. Insitu is focused on enhancing ScanEagle capabilities and is developing a liquid hydrogen fuel tank for the airframe with Washington State University. (Source: Insitu)

Insitu ScanEagle sUAS boosts Coast Guard mission effectiveness

U.S. Coast Guard extends unmanned aircraft deployment across entire fleet for first time, issuing a multi-year contract to Insitu for ISR services.
U.S. Coast Guard officials are expanding their deployment of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, after achieving a record-breaking year for drug interdiction using Insitu’s ScanEagle sUAS aboard a single National Security Cutter, the Stratton.

"When ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, we recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history," affirms Don Williamson, vice president and general manager at Insitu Defense.

Insitu, a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing, in Bingen, Washington, won a five-year, $117 million contract to provide sUAS-based ISR services aboard the entire U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter fleet. The service contract calls for the installation and deployment of sUAS for 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period, during which the ScanEagle will conduct surveillance, detection, classification, and identification operations. Insitu’s unmanned aircraft will also provide real-time imagery, data, target illumination, communications relay, and other capabilities to the fleet and other government platforms in support of prosecution efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2016, Insitu won a contract to provide sUAS ISR services aboard the Stratton National Security Cutter. By January 2018, ScanEagle had directly assisted the ship’s crews in seizing more than $1.5 billion of cocaine and heroin, contributing to the Coast Guard’s record-breaking year for drug busts in 2017.

"The sUAS has already proven itself to be a transformational technology, 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," says 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."

The U.S. Coast Guard began infrastructure installation in April 2018, with plans to begin installing hardware on Coast Guard Cutters James in fall 2018, Munro in late winter 2019, and Bertholf in late spring or early summer 2019.

The Stratton, based at a home port in Alameda, Calif., was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to deploy equipped with an sUAS, Insitu’s ScanEagle, for an entire patrol. ScanEagle had, by the end of the deployment, directly assisted the Stratton crew with conducting four interdictions, seizing more than 1,676 kilograms of illicit contraband valued at $55 million, and apprehending 10 suspected drug traffickers.

During the six-week deployment in the eastern Pacific Ocean, ScanEagle flew 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours, including one operation where the aircraft provided persistent surveillance for 22.7 flight hours in a 24-hour period. ScanEagle was equipped with multiple sensors, including:  electro-optic, thermal, and telescope cameras that delivered a range of aerial imagery to the crew and decision makers, enabling the execution of real-time actionable intelligence.

"The USCG will continue to push the limits of unmanned aviation," Williamson predicts. "We are proud to have earned the opportunity to continue to support the invaluable service the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard provide to this country." 

Insitu develops and supports unmanned systems and software technology that deliver end-to-end solutions for collecting, processing, and understanding sensor data. With offices in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, the company serves the diverse needs of global customers in the defense, government, and commercial industries. To date, Insitu systems have accumulated more than one million flight hours. Insitu is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company.

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Click for more from SAE International on small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). 
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