Unmanned Systems

Coast Guard wants marine drones for persistent surveillance

The Coast Guard is looking to boost its unmanned systems capabilities with mature unmanned marine vehicles (UMVs) for use in persistent-surveillance missions.

In a request for information, the Coast Guard announced a market research effort for commercial-off-the-shelf and government-off-the-shelf UMVs and their associated sensor, data processing, communication and monitoring packages.

The Coast Guard will only consider UMVs that have met Technology Readiness Level 9, which indicates that the UMV has already been proven in previous missions. The sensors to be equipped on the platform only need to be mature products at Technology Readiness Level 7.

The UMV will have to be persistent, meaning it may have to operate unattended for up to months at a time. The vehicle would be used to conduct surveillance missions, monitoring for drug smugglers, poachers, illegal fishing activities and the presence of icebergs. The UMV would have to be able to detect a target, classify it as a target of interest, and report the current location, course, speed and level to a Coast Guard command center, according to the announcement.

The types of vehicle the Coast Guard is looking for has already been developed and are available today, reports Military Aerospace. Configurations range from wave-powered unmanned surface vehicles equipped with underwater wings and solar panels to sea gliders and underwater submersibles.

Vendors will have to provide the following technical information: 

  • Equipment specifications such as size, weight, power, speed, range, and level of autonomy.
  • Sensor capabilities.
  • Command and control capabilities and data storage/exfiltration.
  • Service life.
  • Equipment reliability and availability.
  • Life cycle cost parameters for development, testing, acquisition, operations, planned maintenance, integrated logistics support, training, and disposal.
  • Developmental cost of meeting Coast Guard requirements.
  • Operational practices.
  • Operational limitations such as minimum and maximum depths.
  • Detect and avoid capability.

The RFI intends to use the information to evaluate the potential application of the UMV for Coast Guard missions, life cycle costs and impact on mission effectiveness.

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