Drone helps cutter make major drug seizures

Written by Nick Blenkey
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MAY 9, 2017 — When the USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) left its home port in Alameda, CA, earlier this year, it became the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to deploy fully equipped with a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) — or “drone” to most of us — for an entire patrol.

That sUAS was a ScanEagle from Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and by the end of the deployment, it had directly assisted the Stratton crew with conducting four interdictions, seizing more than 1,676 kilograms of illicit contraband valued at $55 million and apprehending ten suspected drug traffickers.

During the six-week deployment in the eastern Pacific Ocean, ScanEagle flew 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours, including one operation where the aircraft provided persistent surveillance for 22.7 flight hours in a 24-hour period.

ScanEagle was equipped with multiple sensors including electro-optic, thermal and telescope cameras that delivered a range of aerial imagery to the Stratton crew and decision makers, enabling them to better execute real-time actionable intelligence.

The information ScanEagle provided will assist with prosecution efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Insitu’s ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle helped theUS Coast Guard intercept more than six tons of cocaine during a recent deployment aboard the Stratton. The event marked the first time a USCG cutter used a small UAS for an entire patrol.

“We are proud to celebrate the great success of this first deployment, and thank these brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard for the work they do to keep our nation and our global waters safe,” said Ryan M. Hartman, Insitu’s president and CEO.

The Stratton deployment is the first under Insitu’s June 2016 contract award to provide UAS ISR services aboard one Coast Guard national security cutter. Last month, the Coast Guard released a draft request for proposal to procure sUAS capabilities for its entire national security cutter fleet.

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