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The Coast Guard on June 6, 2018, awarded a contract to Insitu of Bingen, Washington, for procurement of small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) capability for the national security cutters (NSCs).

The small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on board the national security cutter (NSC) Stratton aided multiple drug interdictions during the ship’s recent deployment, which included the seizure of five suspected smuggling boats in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Stratton’s success was part of a larger international effort between U.S. and Canadian forces that netted more than 47,000 pounds of cocaine, worth over $721 million, which was offloaded in San Diego Jan. 25, 2018.

The Coast Guard selected the ScanEagle sUAS produced by Insitu Inc. of Bingen, Washington, to deploy from the Stratton. The initial $4.5 million task order awarded June 24, 2016, includes operation, integration, maintenance and sparing of a contractor-owned sUAS on one NSC for one year.

The Coast Guard’s other UAS major acquisition programs remain in the pre-acquisition phase due to ongoing developmental technology challenges, domestic policy limitations and budgetary constraints.

Unmanned Aircraft System

UMANNED Aircraft System

An unmanned aerial vehicle sits in its launcher on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, a national security cutter (NSC) based in Alameda, California. The Coast Guard deployed the ScanEagle small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on Stratton during the acquisition's Analyze/Select phase to gather data to assess best use of the sUAS capability. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney.

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) 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 (NSC).

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.


UAS: In the News


June 7, 2018 - Coast Guard Awards Contract To Procure Small UAS Capability For National Security Cutter

Feb. 8, 2018 - Coast Guard Releases Request For Proposal To Procure Small UAS For National Security Cutters

Jan. 29, 2018 - Small Unmanned Aircraft System Assists National Security Cutter Drug Interdictions


Oct. 23, 2017 - Small UAS For NSC Acquisition Proceeds To Next Phase

Sept. 20, 2017 - Small Unmanned Aircraft System Assists Stratton Drug Interdictions

Aug. 30, 2017 - Coast Guard Releases Request For Information For Long-range And Ultra-long Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems

April 4, 2017 - Acquisition Update: Stratton Completes First Deployment With Small UAS

March 29, 2017 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Invites Industry Feedback On Small UAS Draft Request For Proposal

Feb. 10, 2017 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Members Complete Small Unmanned Aircraft System Training

Jan. 12, 2017 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Conducts Small Unmanned Aircraft System Testing On Cutter Stratton


Oct. 11, 2016 - Coast Guard Begins Small Unmanned Aircraft System Installation On Cutter Stratton

June 28, 2016 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Selects Small UAS For NSC


July 7, 2015 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard RDC Conducts RAMPS Demonstration


Dec. 18, 2014 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Continues UAS Research With Joint Fire Scout Demonstration

Dec. 8, 2014 - Coast Guard RDC Evaluates Unmanned Aircraft System From NSC

April 2014 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Concludes Last Phase of Small Unmanned Aircraft System Demonstration


July 2013 - Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Nets Historic Drug Interdiction During Most Recent Phase of Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Demonstrations