Coast Guard chief scientist: UAVs improve our response ability

By Emily Aasand | September 03, 2014

The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) landed a UAS on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Healy, making it the first UAS to complete a take-off and landing aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker.

After early flight attempts to land the Puma AE on the icebreaker’s flight deck, researchers from the Coast Guard Research and Development Center and NOAA worked alongside Puma AE designer AeroVironment to create a UAS that could successfully perform the procedure

According to a report issued by the Coast Guard RDC, UAS operators came close to landing the system on the initial attempt before managing three successful landings. The UAS is equipped with an electro-optical and infrared camera plus illuminator on a lightweight mechanical gimbaled payload.

The Coast Guard RDC, located in New London, Conn., provides research and evaluations of technologies and equipment with the potential for helping the Coast Guard increase its abilities to carry out its missions. According to the researchers, the hope for this particular UAS, as well as other unmanned systems, is to “perform monitoring and search operations in the Arctic and other areas where hazardous conditions might otherwise place human observers in increased danger.”

“The Coast Guard and its partners realize the value of exploring technologies like UAS to improve our ability to respond in the Arctic,” said Rich Hansen, RDC chief scientist. “Unmanned systems have great potential for tracking spills, so responders can avoid unnecessary risk while safeguarding our seas.”

The crew aboard the 420-foot ice breaker also conducts the Coast Guard’s traditional missions including search and rescue, environmental protection and enforcement of laws and treaties while performing their primary mission of assisting with scientific research in polar regions.