Coast Guard Cutter Deploys UAS, Interdicts Smugglers
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Flight deck 'Berthholf': Photo credit USCG

The Coast Guard has completed the second of three planned shipboard demonstrations of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capabilities aboard Coast Guard Cutter 'Bertholf' .

The Coast Guard is using knowledge gained from these demonstrations to inform a future cutter-based UAS acquisition project.

During the two-week deployment, the UAS demonstration team operated a ScanEagle UAS for more than 90 hours of flight time and 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 ScanEagle was deployed by Bertholf to provide real-time surveillance and location information of a suspected go-fast vessel. The UAS located the target vessel and maintained constant on-scene surveillance until the cutter-based MH-65D helicopter and response boats arrived to interdict and apprehend the vessel’s crew. The seamless handoff between responding assets – including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 aircraft that first spotted the target vessel; UAS; upgraded MH-65D; next-generation response boats and Bertholf, with the regular communication to shore commands – resulted in the successful operation.

The UAS evaluation was conducted by a team of technicians and aviators from Coast Guard Headquarters, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center , Coast Guard Air Station North Bend, Ore., and Insitu Inc.

The entire test period included concurrent flight operations with a MH-65D helicopter stationed aboard the Bertholf. UAS testing included use of the daytime camera, the combination electro-optical/infrared camera and auto detection software.

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