Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week released a list of desired functional capabilities for an upcoming procurement of small drones that can fly like fixed-wing aircraft but take-off and land vertically.

CBP says its currently plans to issue a solicitation during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 for the hybrid-small unmanned aircraft system (H-sUAS).

Release of the functional capabilities list follows a Request for Information (RFI) last August from CBP to conduct market research on the H-sUAS systems, which the agency said would allow its Border Patrol agents to extend missions beyond existing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drones while avoiding potential airframe damage caused by landing fixed-wing aircraft (Defense Daily, Aug. 6, 2019).

The Border patrol has previously purchased several small UAS for its missions and testing, including the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Indago 3 and FLIR Systems [FLIR] Skyraider quadcopter VTOL systems, and the AeroVironment [AVAV] Puma 3 fixed-wing aircraft.

Some of the desired capabilities for the H-sUAS system include being able to detect humans from at least 0.3 miles from the aircraft with an objective range of two miles, requiring just two operators with an objective of a single operator, being able to detect items of interest day and night manually with an objective of being able to do so autonomously, and transmit data and video to the CBP common operating picture command and control center.

The earlier RFI said the hybrid drones will allow operators to detect items of interest in “rugged, remote, rural, urban, riverine, and coast environments,” and that the number of systems needed in each Border Patrol sector will vary based on geography, trained operators, available equipment, and need.

The May 27 pre-solicitation issued by CBP says the agency plans to use the Commercial Solutions Opening Pilot (CSOP) Program mechanism for the upcoming H-sUAS competition. The CSOP program was authorized in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and enables CBP to quickly procure innovative technologies and commercial items from non-traditional contractors outside normal Federal Acquisition Regulations.