Coast Guard completes another UAS test

By Luke Geiver | December 17, 2014

The U.S. Coast Guard has taken another step towards adding unmanned aircraft vehicles to its fleet. Working with Northrop Grumman Corp and the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard recently flew an unmanned helicopter from a national security cutter, the USGSC Bertholf, operating off the coast of Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu.

The UAV, an MQ-8B Fire Scout, was operated and controlled from a control station on the Bertholf by both Navy pilots and Coast Guard personnel. The demonstration will help the Coast Guard understand the best way to proceed with the acquisition of the appropriate unmanned aircraft system, according to Lt. Cmdr. Dan Broadhurst, UAS platform manager.

“The MQ-8B Fire Scout is the Navy’s combat-proven unmanned helicopter and can provide the same persistent maritime surveillance capabilities for the Coast Guard. I’m confident that we’ll demonstrate increased NSC effectiveness while lowering the Coast Guard’s operational costs,” George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems at Northrop said.

The MQ-8B has completed more than 14,000 flight hours, according to the Navy.

Earlier this year, the Coast Guard completed moving takeoff and landing testing using a different unmanned helicopter produced by Scion UAS. The testing helped to prove how a unmanned helicopter can land smoothly on a 16-foot-by-20-foot trailer being towed down a runway at 10 knots (11.5 mph).

The Coast Guard also worked with Puma AE designer AeroVironment earlier this year to prove takeoff and landings from the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Healy.