The Coast Guard on Tuesday said it is canceling plans for to conduct a land-based technology demonstration of long-range unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) because the funding for the project has been rescinded.
Congress previously appropriated $17.5 million in fiscal year 2017 research and development funds for the Coast Guard to demonstrate the Long-Range/Ultra Long-Endurance (LR/ULE) UAS capabilities for helping with detection and monitoring of illegal drug and migrant activities in the transit zone. The Coast Guard wants more assets to help in tracking illegal activities, particularly drug shipments in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said in April that 80 percent of the illegal drugs coming out of Columbia transit the Eastern Pacific before landing in Central America where they are processed into smaller packages for shipment in vehicles and small vessels into the U.S. The Coast Guard and allied navies in Central America have the surface assets to intercept the drug carrying vessels but lack the surveillance assets to detect and track them.
Earlier this year the Coast Guard issued a solicitation for the demonstration. The service wants to deploy the LR/ULE UAS potentially in El Salvador at a U.S. base to provide 24-hour surveillance using a mix of sensors, communications and data links.
The funding was rescinded by Senate appropriators.
Customs and Border Protection, which like the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, operates Predator B UAS for border security and maritime patrol missions. Two of the Predators are marinized to the Guardian configuration for the maritime missions. The Coast Guard contributes pilots for the Predator operations.
Earlier this year, the Coast Guard awarded a contract to Boeing’s [BA] Insitu unit to operate ScanEagle small UAS from the service’s fleet of National Security Cutters. The ScanEagle will give ship commanders more flexibility in conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.