Coast Guard uses cutter-based UAV in cocaine bust


The Coast Guard conducted a two week deployment of a small unmanned aerial vehicle onboard the National Security Cutter USCG Bertholf, logging more than 90 hours of flight time, the service announced earlier this month.

The UAV, a ScanEagle built by a Boeing subsidiary, aided in the interdiction of nearly 600 kilograms of cocaine, "the first Coast Guard interdiction conducted with the support of an embarked UAS asset," the service says.

The ongoing Coast Guard recapitalization program was once meant to include 45 vertical takeoff UAVs deployed onto cutters, but rising expenses forced the Coast Guard to stop development about six years ago.

The Coast Guard has since looked to the Fire Scout vertical UAV program funded by the Navy as a potential source of onboard unmanned aerial vehicles.

In the meantime, small and lightweight UAVs such as the ScanEagle "will fill probably 70 percent of the mission that we would have--we will eventually use Fire Scout for," said Vice Commandant Rear. Adm. John Currier during a June 28 House hearing.

The Coast Guard's 5 year capital investment program calls for no line-item spending on UAVs (.pdf) until fiscal 2016, when it projects $48 million in acquisitions, followed by more years of zero spending.

For more:
- read the Coast Guard article on its UAV-aided drug interdiction
go to the June 28 hearing webpage (prepared testimony and webcast available)  

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