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An unmanned aircraft system consists of an unmanned aircraft, its mission payloads, launch and recovery equipment, ground control station, and control and data links. The Coast Guard is preparing to employ UAS to augment its aircraft fleets and to expand the surveillance range of surface assets like the national security cutter.

Why this program?

The Coast Guard is interested in UAS that can remain on station for extended periods, expand maritime domain awareness and disseminate actionable intelligence on maritime hazards and threats. Building on developmental work by other uniformed services and federal agencies, the Coast Guard is considering cost-effective UAS solutions that meet cutter-based and land-based requirements.

How is the UAS being acquired?

The Coast Guard has focused its UAS acquisition efforts on evaluating technologically mature systems, seeking commonality with Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense programs, and applying other agencies’ UAS experience.

Cutter-based UAS: Cutter-based UAS are considered part of the force package for major cutters, including the NSC and the planned offshore patrol cutter. The Coast Guard has established a non-major acquisition program to acquire small UAS capability for the service’s NSC fleet.

To minimize risk, the Coast Guard obtained sUAS capability on one NSC during the Analyze/Select phase of the acquisition via a pre-existing multiple award contract executed by the Naval Air Systems Command. The initial order awarded to Insitu Inc. June 24, 2016, includes operation, integration, maintenance and sparing of a contractor-owned ScanEagle sUAS on one NSC – Coast Guard Cutter Stratton – for one year. The award includes options for deployment of and data from the sUAS for up to three additional years beyond the base year. The Coast Guard will have full ownership of the surveillance data obtained.

Land-based UAS: The Coast Guard has validated a mission need for land-based UAS to significantly enhance ocean surveillance in support of the service’s operations. Coast Guard land-based UAS flight crews are jointly operating maritime-variant Predator UAS (Guardian) on maritime missions with Customs and Border Protection to enhance the Coast Guard’s understanding of potential land-based UAS solutions and support the development of a land-based UAS requirements package.