The Coast Guard “sees a clear opportunity to perform many of its missions faster, cheaper and more safely through the use of short-range unmanned aircraft systems,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Lampe, short-range UAS platform manager in the Office of Aviation Forces. But exactly what are the risks, benefits and limitations of operating this technology in a maritime environment? The Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate to get those answers.
The Coast Guard Research and Development Center has been evaluating short-range, hand-launched UAS for several years under its Robotic Aircraft Sensor Program for the Maritime Environment (RASP-M). Researchers have evaluated short-range UAS in realistic maritime security, first responder and pollution response scenarios. The lessons learned are being used to develop concept of operations for Coast Guard-specific missions.
To aid DHS components in their quest to incorporate the usage of drones into their missions, DHS S&T officials established both land- and maritime-based evaluation and training sites for DHS components to use. S&T partnered with the Army National Guard to use Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for land-based demonstrations. A partnership was also established with Mississippi State University to gain exclusive access to Singing River Island for maritime evaluation of drones.
“Our partnership with the state of Mississippi has greatly increased our capability to perform the demonstrations and evaluations needed to move to using drones in our standard operations,” said Tim Bennett, S&T program manager of air-based technologies for land and maritime border security.
Maritime-based short-range UAS demonstrations were conducted recently at Singing River Island involving the Coast Guard, Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Aviation Administration.