Coasties step up their UAV game

USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752), the Coast Guard’s third 418-foot Legend-Class National Security Cutter, just returned to Alameda following 98-day counter-smuggling patrol.

While underway she intercepted three suspected smuggling vessels carrying more than 3,600 pounds of cocaine, completed 150 drills associated with her biannual Tailored Ship’s Training Availability, made a port call at Golfito, Costa Rica to conduct some humanitarian efforts, and brought an additional five tons of blow back to port seized by other cutters for offload.

But she also made a little history by deploying with a ScanEagle sUAS. Stratton has used Scan Eagle in proof of concept tests previously (see the below image of the UAV being “trapped”) but this is the first actual deployment.

The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle is recovered on the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 13, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

From the USCG’s presser:

Stratton’s crew made history by being the first Coast Guard cutter to deploy fully equipped with a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) for an entire patrol. The sUAS had been previously used in drug interdiction as part of field testing but had not deployed aboard to a cutter for an entire patrol. The sUAS flew more than 35 sorties, accumulated over 260 flight hours and provided real-time surveillance and detection imagery during interdiction operations. This real-time imagery and persistent surveillance capability assisted Stratton’s embarked helicopter and law enforcement teams with the interdictions.

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