Driven by the commercial and governmental sectors, technological advancements in unmanned systems (UxSs) have been accelerating, along with their reliability, capability, and affordability. The U.S. military, in particular, has demonstrated a keen interest in using UxSs to add and strengthen operational capabilities by making large and sustained investments over the past two decades. Other federal organizations—with law enforcement, national security, and other civilian missions—are also exploiting capabilities afforded by UxSs. The Coast Guard has also invested in research and development (R&D), acquisitions, and some limited deployments of these systems, as well as actively partnering on UxS projects sponsored by other military services and federal agencies.
The chapter begins by identifying and reviewing the status of 12 UxS projects and programs, active or planned at the time of this study, that the Coast Guard either sponsors or supports in partnership with other entities.1 These descriptions are followed by an overview of the Coast Guard’s programmed budgetary expenditures for UxSs, as well as relevant R&D expenditures by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate. This budgetary information is incomplete because much of the Coast Guard’s work on UxSs, as evident from the 12 projects, is not pursued in programs of record but rather in unit-based initiatives and partnerships with other agencies. The Coast
1 The committee was able to identify these 12 projects during the course of its work, but others may have escaped its effort to catalog activity. The status of all 12 projects at the completion of this report is not known.
Guard does not appear to have a commonly planned, coordinated, or resourced effort for furthering the development, acquisition, and use of UxSs across the organization.
After reviewing the Coast Guard’s activity on UxSs, the chapter provides examples of systems and initiatives from several other military services and federal agencies that briefed the committee. Although far from a complete listing of UxSs across the agencies discussed, much less the federal government, the examples are helpful for identifying key features of initiatives and programs that can potentially inform the Coast Guard’s efforts to expand its UxS activity and programs. The chapter concludes by highlighting some of those features.
COAST GUARD UxS ACTIVITIES
The Coast Guard has a range of UxS efforts that span fully funded programs to informal, and often lightly funded or unfunded, partnerships with other governmental, academic, and private-sector entities. Some efforts, including several Coast Guard R&D projects and an established program (ScanEagle) that deploys a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS), are well documented by the Coast Guard. More difficult to trace, however, are various unit-based initiatives and partnerships with other agencies and entities to investigate and utilize UxSs. In tracing these efforts, the committee realized that the Coast Guard is pursuing UxSs in more ways than formally cataloged. Indeed, the number and variety of initiatives that were identified suggest a keen operational-level interest in UxSs for an array of Coast Guard functions and missions.
The following sections contain brief descriptions of 12 Coast Guard UxS projects that the committee identified in programs of record, R&D, and partnerships with other organizations from the military, DHS, and elsewhere in the federal government. In addition to providing basic information on the technologies involved and the operational domain (air, surface, undersea, decision-support), the descriptions identify the sets of missions impacted, the sponsoring Coast Guard unit, and the other public- and private-sector entities involved.
When available, the descriptions include Coast Guard estimates of budgetary expenses and other resource requirements for procuring, deploying, and operating the system, as well as Coast Guard assessments about whether the system is conferring, or expected to confer, budgetary savings or other benefits such as improved safety and quality of the work environment for personnel. Several accompanying tables summarize the project descriptions across different dimensions.
Programs of Record
Small Unmanned Aerial System—National Security Cutter Augment
In 2016, the Coast Guard awarded Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, a services contract to deploy its commercial, off-the-shelf ScanEagle UAS onboard the National Security Cutters. The UAS was deployed to provide augmented air surveillance for drug and migrant interdiction, other law enforcement activity, and Search and Rescue (SAR). Insitu is paid to install the UAS (three units) and their launch-and-recovery equipment and ground-control stations on board the ships, and to deploy a small team embedded in the ship’s crew to operate the system.
The ScanEagle has a wingspan of 10.2 ft. and a length of 5.1 to 5.6 ft. Its empty structure weighs between 30.9 lb. and 39.68 lb., while its maximum takeoff weight is of 48.5 lb. This UAS is launched autonomously using a catapult launcher (see Figure 4-1). The systems also includes a no-net, runway-independent solution that catches the aircraft by its wing tip with a rope that hangs from a 50-ft.-high boom.2
The initial deployments on the Coast Guard cutter Stratton have been characterized as highly successful, because the ScanEagle—equipped with an electro-optical/infrared camera, a laser pointer, a communication relay, an Automatic Identification System interrogator and ViDAR (visual detection and ranging, a surface search capability)—has enabled scans of 75 miles on either side of the ship, effectively doubling the ship’s surveillance area, and has enabled surveillance of as much as 1,000 square miles per flight hour.3 As a result, the Coast Guard has expedited its schedule for installing the UAS on all of its Legend-class National Security Cutters (NSCs), including five to date and all by the end of 2020. Expansions beyond this cutter class are not planned because of cost.
Sponsored by the Office of Air Forces (CG-711), the program has cost $40.2 million through Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Although some of the costs associated with single-event deployments may qualify for reimbursement from Treasury Forfeiture Fund (or similar sources), the program is fully funded by Coast Guard budget allocations from Headquarters (HQ). In providing augmented capabilities, rather than substituting for other personnel and assets in the provision of an existing capability, the system is not expected to provide well-defined budgetary savings. Nevertheless, in the absence of the UAS, to achieve that augmented surveillance, the Coast Guard
2 In Situ. “ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” http://www.boeing.com/farnborough2014/pdf/BDS/ScanEagle%20Backgrounder%200114.pdf.
3 Burgess, R. 2020. “Coast Guard Expedites ScanEagle ISR Services for National Security Cutters.” Sea Power Magazine, January 17, 2020. https://seapowermagazine.org/coast-guard-expedites-scaneagle-isr-services-for-national-security-cutters.
would have to commit time and money for additional manned flights and associated operations, such as deploying a crash safety and fire suppression crew for the duration of each manned flight.
Active Joint Programs
Long-Range Unmanned Aerial System Program
Since 2008, the Coast Guard has participated in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)−U.S. Coast Guard UAS Joint Program Office. The UAS Joint Program Office is staffed by personnel from both agencies who operate CBP-owned systems, including the long-range MQ-9 Predator (separate land and maritime variants) and ground equipment. With a focus on law enforcement and anti-terrorism, the joint program generates surveillance data that serves not only CBP’s Air and Marine Operations and the Coast Guard, but also the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Surveillance from the joint program is intended to benefit the
Law Enforcement, Drug Interdiction, Migrant Interdiction, and Marine Environmental Protection Coast Guard Missions.
Conducted from the National Air Security Operations Center in San Angelo, Texas, these joint operations have involved Coast Guard pilots, sensor operators, and trainers. The approximately 17 Coast Guard personnel that serve in the joint program every year are funded by Coast Guard HQ at a cost of $2.25 million annually (for personnel and travel).
From the technology perspective, the MQ-9 (see Figure 4-2) is long range with an endurance of up to 20 hours, making it an ideal candidate for persistent surveillance. With a maximum gross weight of 10,500 lb., the MQ-9 operates with a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. and can reach speeds of 240 knots.4 The “Guardian” version of the MQ-9 is designed specifically for maritime domain missions, and it differs from the land domain Predator by its SeaVue marine search radar as well as the electro-optical infrared sensor optimized for maritime operations. The lack of both land and maritime surveillance sensors within the same aircraft hinder operational adaptability when unforeseen surveillance opportunities at sea suddenly occur while conducting a land domain awareness operation. This limitation, in addition to the scarce number of maritime domain flights under this program, reduces the potential gains for Coast Guard missions.
Briefings by the UAS Joint Program Office suggest that awareness of the Predator program is currently low among Coast Guard pilots, and it has proven difficult to attract pilots to the program. Accordingly, the Coast Guard is trying to encourage pilots to participate in the program after their first aviation tour. Training for experienced pilots lasts about 8 weeks. Unlike the U.S. Air Force, for example, the Coast Guard does not have an established career path for unmanned aircraft operators. Pilots who serve in the MQ-9 program fly unmanned aircraft during a limited tour and then return to the fleet.
Additional challenges are the lack of a strategic plan and supporting roadmaps and the high cost of operating the MQ-9. Because CBP covers most costs for this program, the Coast Guard’s spending on this technology would be much higher if it had pursued this technology alone. However, this program has not shown a cost savings compared to the use of manned aircraft.5
4 DHS. “Unmanned Aircraft System MQ-9 Predator B.” https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2019-Feb/air-marine-fact-sheet-uas-predator-b-2015.pdf.
5 DHS Office of Inspector General. 2014. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program Does Not Achieve Intended Results or Recognize All Costs of Operations.” https://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2015/OIG_15-17_Dec14.pdf.
Research and Development
Robotic Aircraft for Maritime Public Safety
Initiated in FY 2013 and completed in FY 2019, this R&D project evaluated small quad copter (see the Yuneec Typhoon H being tested in Figure 4-3) and small fixed-wing UAS platforms (see the Puma AE in Figure 4-4) across a variety of geographic areas and every class of Coast Guard vessel as well as shore locations.
With a size of 20.5 in. × 18 in. × 12.2 in. and takeoff weight of 368.8 oz., the Yuneec Typhoon H has an endurance of up to 25 min., fly ceiling of 122 meters (restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA]) and maximum climbing speed of 5m/s. Its maximum rotation rate is 85 deg/s and maximum roll angle is 35 degrees.6 It operates using a 4S 14.8V LiPo battery and has a ST16 Personal Station Ground transmitter. This UAS also has a small 9.0 oz. (with battery) camera with a 14 mm/F2.8
lens and field of view of 98 degrees. It can transmit video in the 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi frequency band at a range of up to 1 mile in optimum conditions.
The Coast Guard also tested the Puma AE by AeroVironment.7 Weighing 13.5 lb., the Puma AE operates for more than 210 min., usually at a range of up to 9 miles, and provides live-streaming color and infrared video, as well as laser illumination from its pan-tilt-zoom Mantis i25 AE gimbaled payload. The system is very portable; it is launched by hand and is capable of landing on the ground or in fresh or salt water.8
With the potential to benefit the SAR, Drug Interdiction, Migrant Interdiction, Living Marine Resources Enforcement, and Marine Environmental Response missions, the program evaluated realistic scenarios for maritime security to help guide the development of requirements, standards, and concept of operations (CONOPS). It also helped guide future platform and sensor development including payloads.
This research, sponsored by the Coast Guard Office of Aviation Forces (CG-711), was funded by DHS S&T at a cost of $1.42 million. By the time the R&D project was completed, funding and the limited capabilities of sUAS had emerged as primary challenges. Because these technologies could alleviate the need for manned aircraft for some surveillance operations, research continued in subsequent R&D programs.
Short-Range UAS Program
This program, sponsored by the Office of Aviation Forces (C-711) and initiated in FY 2018, focused on short-range (i.e., 1 mile, 30 min. endurance), low-cost, commercial off-the-shelf technology that requires minimal training and low endurance. This work, conducted in partnership with DHS, started as a test and demonstration to explore the capabilities of these systems. Seven prototypes were tested in FY 2018, and 11 more units were fielded in FY 2019, with the goal of expanding to fleet-wide deployment by the end of FY 2020.9 The program, however, is currently on hold, pending compliance with congressional mandates about foreign supply sources. If implemented in the future, the use of short-range UASs could benefit several Coast Guard missions including SAR; Port, Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS); Law Enforcement; Drug Interdiction; Marine Environmental Protection; Aids to Navigation; Ice Operations; and Migrant Interdiction.
7 Moncourtois, A. 2020. “U.S. Coast Guard Deploys Puma™ AE during Operation Deep Freeze.” https://www.avinc.com/images/uploads/news/Operation_Deep_Freeze.pdf.
8 AeroVironment. 2016. “Aerovironment’s Puma AE UAS Supporting Coast Guard Ice Breaker for Operation Deep Freeze Resupply Mission through Treacherous Antarctic Seas.” https://www.avinc.com/resources/press-releases/view/aerovironments-puma-ae-uas-supportingcoast-guard-ice-breaker-for-operation.
9 Briefing from CDR Chad Thompson in September 2019.
The program, paid for by Coast Guard Field Units, involved an investment in technology of approximately $50,000 per year and produced an estimated cost savings of $513,000 in FY 2018. Thus, the potential for cost savings is high because the use of these UASs could result in fewer aircraft/boat launches, which would ultimately reduce maintenance and fuel costs. The use of seven short-range UAS units in 1 year can save more than $500,000, because the need to contract out cranes, survey crews, or manned aviation assets is eliminated. Fleet-wide implementation could realize very large potential savings. Likewise, the use of this technology could improve the quality of life for Coast Guard personnel, because short-range UASs could reduce the need for boat launches by providing greater situational awareness of the maritime domain and could be easily used for dull/dangerous missions such as tower or other infrastructure inspections.
Because this program is focused on future deployment to Coast Guard field units, additional benefits for routine Coast Guard operations may be discovered once the technology is in the hands of the workforce. For external partners, information gathered with short-range UASs could support law enforcement agencies and maritime entities located near Coast Guard units, and ultimately provide faster and better maritime domain awareness (MDA) that could increase the safety and security of the American public.
As with other programs, the lack of a Coast Guard strategic plan for UxS could challenge the success of this program and the effective integration of the technology into Coast Guard missions. From the technology perspective, the lack of affordable and cyber-hardened short-range UASs could limit the type of operations these systems can support.
Medium-Range UAS Program
In 2018 and 2019, the Coast Guard conducted proof-of-concept research in Texas, Puerto Rico, and California for medium-range UASs using the ScanEagle. Sponsored by the Office of Aviation Forces (CG-711), the program is currently developing requirements for fleet-wide, cutter-based UASs for tactical airborne surveillance and reconnaissance. At a cost of $180,000, this work is being funded through the Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO) at HQ.
This program’s goal is to augment or replace manned surveillance flights, both from ships and on land, which could potentially reduce costs in traditional equipment and personnel recognizing of course that the unmanned assets themselves have costs and require personnel to operate and maintain them. If successfully developed and deployed, medium-range UASs could benefit the Law Enforcement, Drug Interdiction, Migrant Interdiction, and Marine Environmental Response missions. When operated from Coast Guard cutters, this UAS could reduce the burden of manned
flight operations, which involve significant time investments for a large portion of the crew.
Technical and regulatory impediments for the deployment of this UAS involve mainly airspace see-and-avoid regulations. In addition, successful development and deployment could be hindered by the lack of a Coast Guard strategic plan for UxSs and limited funding for R&D and acquisition.
Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS Operations
This ongoing R&D project evaluates UAS that can takeoff vertically, transition to forward flight, and then land vertically, thus eliminating the need for specialized launch and recovery equipment. The Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) system being tested is the Martin unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) V-BAT (see Figure 4-5).10 Having a wing-span of 9 ft., length of 8 ft., and weight of 88 lbs., the V-BAT UAS has a range of 130 km and airspeed of 47 knots when flying for maximum endurance, and 90 knots when flying for maximum speed. The V-BAT is designed with enough capacity to carry a range of interchangeable payloads, such as electro-optical/infrared, Automatic Identification System (AIS), land and maritime surveillance, Tactical Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and 4G/LTE, to serve mission-specific requirements.11
The project—sponsored by the Office of Aviation Forces (CG-711) and funded through the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS)/ Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) appropriation—was initiated in FY 2020 at a cost of $381,000 and is slated for completion in FY 2022. The project is being conducted in partnership with U.S. Southern Command.
Successful development and deployment of VTOL technology could benefit the SAR, Law Enforcement, Drug Interdiction, Marine Environmental Response, and Migrant Interdiction missions. The technology could potentially support the U.S. Navy through joint Coast Guard−Navy operations. With the potential to reduce manned flight operations, which require a significant time investment by a large portion of the crew, VTOL technology could relieve crew to focus on other key operations, and thus serve as a force multiplier. This technology could decrease the deck size required for flight operations, which could bring “flight deck” capability to a greater range of cutters. The main challenges to successful development and deployment are the requirements for see-and-avoid technology and flight endurance.
10UASWeekly.com. “Martin UAV V-BAT Selected as the First-Ever VTOL UAS to Be Evaluated During an Operational Coast Guard Patrol.” https://uasweekly.com/2020/09/03/martin-uav-vbat-selected-as-the-first-ever-vtol-uas-to-be-evaluated-during-an-operational-coast-guard-patrol.
Low-Cost MDA Pilot
This pilot program, carried out in response to legislation and initiated in FY 2018, is studying the potential to improve MDA in remote areas using low-cost, commercially available, unmanned surface vessels, specifically vessels from Saildrone12 and Spatial Integrated Systems,13 and historic Automatic Identification System (AIS) data. The study is focused on a turnkey solution that would engage contractors to operate the entire system.
Saildrone is an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) designed to perform autonomous long-range data collection missions in ocean environments. The vehicle weighs 750 kg and has a narrow 7 meters long hull, 5 meters tall wing, and a keel with a 2.5 meters draft. The system combines wind-powered propulsion technology that enables mission durations of up to 12 months (sailing on average 100 km per day) and solar-powered meteorological and
12 Saildrone. “Eyes and Ears at Sea: US Coast Guard to Test Saildrone Autonomous MDA Capabilities.” https://www.saildrone.com/news/uscg-test-maritime-domain-awareness-solution.
13 PRNewswire. “Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS) Wins US Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness Pilot Study Contract.” https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/spatial-integratedsystems-sis-wins-us-coast-guard-maritime-domain-awareness-pilot-study-contract-301010569.html.
oceanographic sensors. This USV can be launched and recovered from a dock. It operates either under the constant supervision of a human pilot via satellite or can navigate autonomously from prescribed beginning and end points within a user-defined safety corridor. While traveling autonomously it accounts for wind and currents to stay on track. Its meteorological and oceanographic sensor are capable to measure in real time solar irradiance, long wave radiation, atmospheric pressure, air temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction, ocean skin temperature, bulk water temperature, chlorophyll and colored dissolved organic matter, among others.14
The Spatial Integrated Systems’ Multi Agent Robotic Teams Autonomy System is a vehicle control system that can turn any platform into an unmanned system. The vehicle platform used for the project is the MetalCraft 7 meter Interceptor Boat by MetalCraft Marine, who teamed up with Spatial Integrated Systems for this Coast Guard award. A high speed patrol boat, which is also used by the Coast Guard Cutter Boat-Large Program, the MetalCraft 7 meter Interceptor was specifically chosen for this project because it can operate in extreme conditions, has been proven for launch and recovery from USCG Cutters and has a large space for future payloads.15
The pilot is sponsored by the Office of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems and Technology (CG-26), but it involves an extensive list of Coast Guard stakeholders, including the Office of Aviation Forces (CG-711), Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721), Office of C4 and Sensor Capabilities (CG-761), Office of Law Enforcement Policy (CG-MLE), Atlantic Area, Pacific Area, District 14 (D14), and District 17 (D17). The $3 million cost for the project has been funded by Coast Guard HQ, specifically the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, Acquisition Directorate (CG-9), R&D.
The Coast Guard is conducting this project with no external partnerships. Successful development and deployment of the technology could support other government agencies, such as the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Department of State, and the states of Alaska and Hawaii. It could also benefit relevant nonprofit environmental groups, allied foreign governments located in the region where the Coast Guard operates (e.g., Australia, France, and New Zealand), and the Oceania region (consisting of small island nations—Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia—that lack the resources or capability
15 Cision. “Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS) Wins US Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness Pilot Study Contract.” February 25, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/spatial-integrated-systems-sis-wins-us-coast-guard-maritime-domain-awareness-pilot-study-contract-301010569.html.
to monitor their Exclusive Economic Zones). Although somewhat speculative, Coast Guard deployment of this technology could urge other nations and U.S. government agencies to financially support a Coast Guard−capable system that could improve SAR, Fisheries Law Enforcement, Drug Interdiction, and Migrant Interdiction in vast and remote maritime regions.
The expansion of MDA in remote areas using autonomous systems could reduce patrol days and fuel costs, while improving the ability to monitor and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Fleet operations could also be freed up to support other missions that are not currently sourced.
As with other UxS projects within the Coast Guard, the lack of a strategic plan and budget considerations are the main challenges to future deployment of this technology.
Oil Spill Detection and Mapping
This R&D project is focused on the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle for mapping oil spills on the surface, subsurface, and under the ice. The Tethys Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is designed for under ice operations in the Arctic environment.16 Designed for low-drag and low-power operation, this system has a 15-day endurance (with 6kWH rechargeable batteries) and the capability to travel hundreds of miles.17 The Tethys is designed for dissolved hydrocarbon and environmental anomaly detection and mapping.
The technology could improve understanding of oil in water column, which would ultimately impact response strategies. Successful development and deployment would therefore benefit primarily the Coast Guard’s Marine Environmental Response (MER) mission; therefore, the Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG-MER) is sponsoring this R&D. Although the University of Alaska’s Arctic Domain Awareness Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Monterey Bay Aquarium are partners, DHS S&T is funding the project at a total of $4.18 million.
The project will be completed in FY 2021. If adopted, some of the costs associated with single-event deployments may qualify for reimbursement
17 Tethys is 2.7 meters long, 0.3 meters diameter, 110 kg dry weight. It is rated to 300-meters depth. It is propeller-driven with a 0.5–1.2 m/s speed. Its buoyancy engine enables neutral buoyancy and drift mode. It has the following sensors: CTD (or Sonde to measure the conductivity, temperature, and pressure of seawater), DO2 (to measure dissolved oxygen and temperature), SeaOWL (fluorometers), fluorescence/backscatter and hydrocarbon detection, up/down acoustic Doppler current profiler, umodem, USBL array (for underwater acoustic positioning), docking nose, and a photosynthetically active radiation sensor.
because the “responsible party” for a given oil spill is legally required to clean up or reimburse cleanup efforts to the National Pollution Funds Center.
Cost, complexity of these underwater unmanned vehicles, and their maintainability are the primary challenges to their deployment and use. However, their use could enable more rapid and accurate response to pollution spills in U.S. waters, thereby increasing the quality of life of all Americans.
Oil Spills in Ice Environments
This ongoing project is conducting lab and field tests of long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), AUVs, and UASs in ice conditions to verify the accuracy of sensors and unmanned systems and is testing the timeliness of data transfer to responders. The technology under research involves multiple domains: air, surface, subsurface, and decisions support systems. The Coast Guard has partnered with NOAA, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out this project. Figure 4-6 depicts the recovery from icy waters of a Puma AE UAS during one of the tests conducted in collaboration with the Coast Guard’s partners. The project’s research results are expected in September 2021; its successful completion will result in a prototype.
The Coast Guard mission that will most benefit from these systems is MER; therefore, the program sponsor is the Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG-MER). The project also has the support of other Coast Guards offices including the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) Research and Development Center (RDC); the Office of Incident Management & Preparedness (CG-5RI); and Districts 1, 9 and 17. At a total cost of $300,000, this project is funded through the National Pollution Funds Center, specifically the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The potential for the Coast Guard to be reimbursed for costs to use these systems during its operations is very high, because the spill’s “responsible party” is legally required to clean up or reimburse cleanup efforts to the National Pollution Funds Center.
Proving the concept and allocating funds for future development and deployment will be essential to realizing these systems and their expected benefits. The Coast Guard responds to thousands of pollution events every year, and therefore improved data collection could significantly improve response times and provide better information about geographic location. Thus, the potential to realize benefits from deployment of these various UxSs is very high.
These systems could improve the quality of life of Coast Guard personnel, because they can replace people as data collectors in very harsh environmental conditions. Moreover, environmental conditions in the Arctic sometimes preclude data collection altogether, so the benefits derived by the Coast Guard from the systems would be significant. Other beneficiaries would be NOAA, EPA, U.S. states and territories that regularly experience maritime ice conditions, neighboring countries (e.g., Canada), and nongovernmental organizations working on environmental issues.
Counter-Unmanned Air Systems (cUASs)
This project, initiated in October 2016 and slated for completion in November 2020, is examining air domain vehicles and decision support systems to detect, track, identify, and defeat illicit use of UASs in the maritime environment. Its deliverable will inform requirements for the PWCS and Defense Readiness missions. The project is conducting market research
of government and commercial off-the-shelf technology and evaluating prototypes to support the development of requirements. It is also providing subject-matter expertise in Coast Guard−wide development of tactics, techniques, and procedures. Similar to other UxS under investigation by the Coast Guard, successful development and deployment could be hindered by the lack of a strategic plan and historic low levels of investment in these systems.
Given the anticipated proliferation of small UASs in the commercial market and the growing threats posed by these systems, ensuring cUAS capabilities will likely become increasingly important for the Coast Guard in order to protect the safety and security of the American public. This added capability could also benefit the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and law enforcement agencies through their joint and cooperative activities with the Coast Guard.
The Office of Maritime Security Response Policy (CG-MSR) is the Coast Guard sponsor for this R&D project. Stakeholders include a wide range of organizations within the Coast Guard: Office of Aviation Forces (CG-711), Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721), Office of Boat Forces (CG-731), Office of Cutter Forces (CG-751), Office of Security Policy and Management (DCMS-34), Coast Guard Intelligence (CG-2), Assistant Commandant for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology (CG-6), Command, Control, and Communications Engineering Center (C3CEN), Surface Forces Logistics Center, and Area-3. Funded at $1.39 million, the project is being paid for primarily by the Atlantic Area and, to lesser extent, the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS) RDT&E. External partnerships include DHS S&T, U.S. Air Force (USAF) Research Lab, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Naval Surface Warfare Centers, and the Office of Naval Research.
Counter-Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (cUUVs) Including Anti-Swimmer
This ongoing research project, to be completed in 2021, builds on prior anti-swimmer work. The project is summarizing cUUV and anti-swimmer technologies with high technology readiness levels that can be demonstrated for Coast Guard use and conducting limited user evaluation to identify baseline and desired functional characteristics. The primary Coast Guard missions that would benefit from these systems are PWCS, Defense Readiness, and Law Enforcement. The primary challenges for full development and deployment are proof of technology and funding.
Although this technology is not expected to yield costs savings, field personnel would benefit because they would be better equipped to counter
underwater threats including anti-swimmers. This technology could be useful for DOD, federal/state/local law enforcement agencies with maritime vessels or infrastructure, and even allied partner nations—and perhaps even cruise lines and other passenger vessels.
The project sponsor is the Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721). Stakeholders include the Office of Naval Engineering (CG-45), Office of Boat Forces (CG-731), Office of C4 & Sensors Capabilities (CG-761), and Area-3. The Coast Guard’s DCMS RDT&E is funding this project at a total cost of $164,000.
Maritime Unmanned System Technology (MUST)
This project is evaluating autonomous underwater and surface vehicles—such as the Triton by Ocean Aero in Figure 4-7—and their potential for persistent MDA.
Ocean Aero’s Triton is a wind- and solar-powered surface and subsurface ocean UxS, designed to be able to be out in the ocean for months a time. It is 4.14 meters long, 2.45 meters high, and has a weight of 127 kg. Its wind propulsion allows for speeds of 5 knots. For operations underwater, Triton’s wingsail folds and retracts allowing the vehicle to quickly submerge to evade detection and severe weather conditions as well as perform subsurface data collection tasks. The platform also provides with stability ballast tanks, and solar rechargeable lithium batteries. It can collects a wide variety of ocean and environmental data using its set of sensors, such as weather sensors, acoustic Doppler current profiler, magnetometers, seismic survey sensors, and hydrocarbon detectors.18
If successful, deployment would certainly benefit the Law Enforcement, Drug Interdiction, Migrant Interdiction, and Marine Environmental Protection missions; research results could reveal benefits for other statutory Coast Guard missions, the Navy, and other maritime law enforcement agencies. Eventual deployment must overcome the challenges of sensor capability, equipment endurance, and funding. If those challenges are met, then use of the systems would intensify persistent maritime surveillance in U.S. waters and thus increase the safety and security of all Americans.
The project was initiated in October 2019 and is slated for completion in November 2023. DHS S&T is a sponsor and the sole funder, providing $16 million for FY 2019–2020. In addition to DHS S&T, external non-funding partners include the U.S. Naval Research Lab, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and the Naval Information Warfare Center. Internal to the Coast Guard, the project benefits from the sponsorship of Coast Guard Intelligence (CG-2) and numerous
stakeholders including the Office of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems and Technology (CG-26), Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721), and Office of Law Enforcement Policy (CG-MLE).
The following tables summarize the details for the Coast Guard UxS projects that were identified by the committee:
- Table 4-1 lists the Coast Guard missions that could benefit from the capabilities of the specific UxSs activities and projects completed or under way.
- Table 4-2 summarizes the operational domain—air, surface water, subsurface, or decision-support platforms—relevant for each of those known projects.
- Table 4-3 identifies which organization(s) carries the primary and secondary cost burden for each UxSs activity.
- Table 4-4 provides an overview of the program sponsors for each UxS project.
- Table 4-5 shows the Coast Guard’s U.S. government, foreign government, academic, and private-sector entities partners for the UxS projects/programs.
The tables reveal the Coast Guard’s interest and ongoing efforts to realize the promise of these technologies across its missions and operational
TABLE 4-1 U.S. Coast Guard UxS Projects by Mission Area
|Search and Rescue||Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security||Law Enforcement||Defense Readiness||Drug Interdiction||Living Marine Resources||Marine Environmental Protection||Aids to Navigation||Marine Safety||Ice Operations||Migrant Interdiction|
|VTOL UAS Operations||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt|
|Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt|
|Oil Spill Detection and Mapping||H|
|Oil Spills in Ice Environments||H|
|Counter-Unmanned Air Systems||H||Pt|
|Counter-Unmanned Underwater Including Swimmers||H||Pt|
|Maritime UxS Technology||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt||Pt|
NOTE: Mission Impact: H = high; L = low; M = medium; Pt = potential.
domains (air, surface, subsurface, and decision support). However, they also reveal the ad-hoc and decentralized nature of the Coast Guard UxSs programs to date. Table 4-4, in particular, highlights the fact that no single organization champions the Coast Guard’s coordination of UxSs activities.
TABLE 4-2 U.S. Coast Guard UxS Activity by Modality or Operational Domain
|Modality or Operational Domain|
|VTOL UAS Operations||P|
|Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety||P|
|Oil Spill Detection and Mapping||P|
|Oil Spills in Ice Environments||S||P|
|Counter-Unmanned Air Systems||P|
|Counter-Unmanned Underwater Including Swimmers||P|
|Maritime UxS Technology||P||P|
NOTE: P = primary; S = secondary.
TABLE 4-3 Organizations That Carry Cost Burden for U.S. Coast Guard UxS Projects
|USCG Headquarters||USCG Area||USCG District||USCG Field Units||DHS|
|VTOL UAS Operations||P|
|Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety||P|
|Oil Spill Detection and Mapping||P|
|Oil Spills in Ice Environments||P|
|Counter-Unmanned Air Systems||S||P|
|Counter-Unmanned Underwater Including Swimmers||P|
|Maritime UxS Technology||P|
NOTE: P = primary; S = secondary.
TABLE 4-4 U.S. Coast Guard Program Sponsors for Each Listed UxS Project
|Sponsors||Unmanned System Projects|
|Long-Range UAS||Medium-Range UAS||Short-Range UAS||sUAS—NSC Augment||VTOL UAS Operations||Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety||Low-Cost MDA||Oil Spill Detection and Mapping||Oil Spills in Ice Environments||Counter-Unmanned Air Systems||Counter-Unmanned Underwater and Anti-Swimmers||Maritime UxS Technology|
|Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO)||CG-2||S||S||S|
NOTE: P = primary; S = secondary.
TABLE 4-5 Partnering Entities for the U.S. Coast Guard’s UxS Projects
|Long-Range UAS||Medium-Range UAS||Short-Range UAS||sUAS—NSC Augment||VTOL UAS Operations||Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety||Low-Cost MDA||Oil Spill Detection and Mapping||Oil Spills in Ice Environments||Counter-Unmanned Air Systems||Counter-Unmanned Underwater and Anti-Swimmers||Maritime UxS Technology|
|CPB||Air and Marine||X|
|USN||Naval Surface Warfare Center||X|
|Naval Undersea Warfare Center||X|
|Naval Air Systems Command||X|
|Office of Naval Research||X||X|
|Naval Information Warfare Center||X|
|USAF||Air Force Research Lab||X|
|USA||Army Research and Development Center (CRREL)||X|
|JIATF - South||X|
|Other U.S. Government||NOAA||National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration||X||X|
|BSEE||Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement||X|
|FAA||Federal Aviation Administration|
|EPA||U.S. Environmental Protection Agency||X||X|
|Private Entity||Monterey Bay Aquarium||X|
|Academia||University of Alaska||X||X|
|Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute||X||X|
|University of Southern Mississippi|
COAST GUARD BUDGET FOR UxSs
Only one of the Coast Guard’s UxS activities described above is called out in its FY 2020 budget—the sUAS-NSC Augment (ScanEagle) program, which is funded at $9.4 million, up from $6.0 million in FY 2019. Inasmuch as the Coast Guard is involved in several UxS projects other than ScanEagle, the Service is certainly investing more than $9.4 million per year, which represents less than 5 percent of Coast Guard aviation-related procurement, construction, and improvements (PC&I) allocations, and less than 0.1 percent of the Coast Guard’s total discretionary budget for FY 2020.
However, even if one assumes the Coast Guard is spending measurably more on these non-program projects, its UxS spending totals would undoubtedly be quite small in absolute and relative terms as a share of its discretionary budgets when compared to UxS investments by the other military services. For example, the U.S. Department of Navy (Navy and Marine Corps) allocates about 2 percent of its discretionary budget to UxS procurements, R&D, and associated installation and construction activity (see Table 4-6). Total DOD investments in UxSs have grown from less than $5 billion in FY 2017 to more than $8 billion in FY 2020.19
Although some of the Coast Guard’s UxS projects are funded through the R&D program budget, this funding program does not offer a promising avenue for significantly expanded UxS activity as currently resourced. As shown in Table 4-7, the Coast Guard’s R&D budget in FY 2020 was about $5 million, representing about 0.04 percent of its total discretionary budget. Other DHS agencies with operating responsibilities, such as CBP and the Transportation Security Administration, have R&D budgets that are 5 to 9 times higher than that of the Coast Guard as a percentage of total budgets (see Table 4-7).
By far the largest R&D sponsor in DHS is the S&T Directorate. As the primary research arm of DHS, it funds basic and applied R&D, demonstrations, and testing and evaluation activities in support of all DHS agencies. A review of the directorate’s funding for UxS over the past 5 FYs, as summarized in Table 4-8, indicates that investments are growing, up from $5 million in FY 2015 to $8 million in FY 2020, after reaching nearly $12 million in FY 2019—or about 2 percent of the directorate’s total R&D budget.
Indeed, the S&T Directorate does fund UxS project that apply to the Coast Guard. Four of the 12 projects described above are funded by the Directorate—projects on robotic aircraft for public safety, oil spill detection and mapping, counter-unmanned air systems, and maritime counter UxS technology.
TABLE 4-6 FY 2020 Discretionary Budgets and Estimated Investments in UxSs by the U.S. Coast Guard and Other Military Services
|Enacted FY 2020 Budget20,21 ($ million)||President’s Budget FY 202022 ($ million)||UxS Budget as Percentage of Discretionary Budget|
|Coast Guard||Discretionary Budget||9,973||0.1%|
|UxS Budget (sUAS-NSC Augment)||9.4|
|Navy/Marine Corps||Discretionary Budget||209,000||2.2%|
|Air Force||Discretionary Budget||205,406||1.1%|
NOTES: The UxS budgets for the U.S. Department of Navy, Army, and Air Force are based on the President’s Budget 2020, not appropriated amounts. The proposed totals nevertheless indicate the scale of investment. NSC = National Security Cutter; sUAS = small unmanned aerial system; UxS = unmanned system.
20 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard. “Budget Overview. Fiscal Year 2021, Congressional Justification.” https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/u.s._coast_guard.pdf.
21 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer. 2020. “Defense Budget Overview.” https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2021/fy2021_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf.
TABLE 4-7 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Agency Total Discretionary Budgets and Research and Development (R&D) Budgets, FY 2020
|DHS Agencies||Total Budget (000)||R&D Budget (000)||R&D % of Total Budget|
|U.S. Customs and Border Protection||$14,721,867||$45,000a||0.31|
|Immigration and Customs Enforcement||$8,080,071||$0||0.00|
|Transportation Security Administration||$5,233,567||$22,902||0.44|
|Federal Emergency Management Agency||$5,076,799||$0||0.00|
|U.S. Secret Service||$2,415,845||$12,455||0.52|
|Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency||$2,015,622||$14,431||0.72|
|Science and Technology Directorate||$737,275||$422,411||57.29|
|Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office||$432,299||$69,181||16.00|
|Citizen and Immigration Services||$132,395||$0||0.00|
|Federal Law Enforcement Training Center||$351,170||$0||0.00|
|Total DHS Funding||$51,163,034||$591,329||1.16|
a CBP does not receive a direct R&D appropriation but funds R&D through its operations and acquisitions budget.
TABLE 4-8 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Directorate of Science and Technology Spending on UxS Research and Development, FY 2015–2020
|Enacted Funding (000)|
|FY 2016||FY 2017||FY 2018||FY 2019||FY 2020|
SOURCE: Funding data estimated from the latest draft of DHS’s National Defense Authorization Act report.
EXAMPLES OF UxS ELSEWHERE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
During the course of this study, the committee was briefed by officials from several federal agencies of varying size and having a range of civilian, law enforcement, national security, and defense missions to learn more about their development and use of UxSs. The briefings not only provided numerous examples of the kinds of systems being pursued at the federal level but also insight into the organizational steps and commitment required
to develop and field the systems. A short synopsis of what the committee learned is provided next.
The Navy has a long history of employing UxSs for defense missions including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and attack. Indeed, many modern weapons, including missiles and torpedoes, are sophisticated UxS capable of navigation, obstacle avoidance, data collection, communication, and planning and prioritization, often in full or semi-autonomous control. The Navy (and DOD generally) has expanded its use of UxSs for other purposes as advances in energy storage, communications, precision navigation, processing, and autonomy have enabled longer duration missions by relatively affordable vehicles. Today, the Navy operates unmanned vehicles in air, sea surface, and undersea environments for a wide range of other missions, including reconnaissance, vessel tracking and identification, minehunting and sweeping, installation and maintenance of underwater infrastructure, search and rescue, and oceanography.23
As reported above, the Coast Guard partners with the Navy on a couple of projects on cUASs and marine UxS technology. Figure 4-8 presents examples of the Navy’s UAS program. The aircraft range from the large 32,000 lb., high-altitude, and long-endurance MQ-4C Triton (a successor to the RQ-4 Global Hawk) to mid-size aircraft such as the MQ-8B/8C Fire Scout and much smaller UAVs, such as the 44-lb. MQ-27A ScanEagle and a number of ultralights weighing less than 10 lb. Although a description of the full range of Navy UAVs is not possible in this report, a few examples illustrate the Navy’s expanding use of these systems across a wide size and capability spectrum.
The Triton is a remotely piloted UAS designed to conduct surveillance over more than 1 million square miles of sea and littoral space from an altitude as high as 55,000 ft. on missions that can exceed 24 hours in duration.24 Signifying this system’s value, the Navy has established a dedicated ground control squadron (VUP-19) to operate it. Priced at more $100 million per aircraft (and requiring substantial ground support), the required investment to deploy the Triton, or a similarly large and capable UAS—for Coast Guard missions—would seem to be prohibitively high. However, in cases where the capabilities of a highly sophisticated UAS can
23 For example, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command deploys autonomous underwater vehicles on ships for surveying ocean bathymetry and a fleet of buoyancy gliders that measure ocean conditions such as temperature and salinity.
24 Mark Darrah. “The Age of Unmanned Systems.” Proceedings, September. 2015. U.S. Naval Institute.
serve particular Coast Guard mission requirements for surveillance and intelligence gathering, partnering with the Navy and other potential users, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration, may be an option.
An example of a Navy-developed mid-size UAS used for surveillance is the MQ-8B Fire Scout. This rotor-wing aircraft operates autonomously from either a ship or from shore with a 20,000-ft. ceiling and mission duration of about 6 hours.25 An advantage of the Fire Scout is that it has a smaller shipboard footprint than manned helicopters and does not require active remote piloting. The Fire Scout’s latest variant, the MQ-8C (see Figure 4-9) built on a Bell 407 helicopter frame, has the same autonomous capability as the MQ-B but can fly for longer (11-hour) periods and carry a larger payload. While this example of a Navy-developed rotor-wing UAS is provided simply to illustrate the Navy’s pursuit of a range of UASs having different capabilities and sizes, the committee was informed that the Coast Guard has tested this particular aircraft for potential mission deployments.
25 Brian Alkire, et al. “Applications for Navy Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” RAND Report. 2010.
Like the Coast Guard, the Navy employs sUASs, including the ScanEagle, which it has used for more than a decade. The Navy deploys even lighter UAVs as part of its Small Unit Remote Scouting System Program.26 They include the RQ-12A Wasp IV, which has a length of 2.7 ft., wing-span of 3.3 ft., weighs less than 3 lb. and can operate for 50 min. for use by small tactical units (platoons and squads) for front-line reconnaissance and surveillance. Other examples of ultralights used for scouting are the 5 lb. Raven (with a length of 3 ft. and wing-span of 4.5 ft. and 50–90 min. endurance) and 14-lb. RQ-20B Puma (with a length of 4.7 ft. and wing-span of 9.2 ft. and 3.5 hour endurance).
Examples of the Navy’s interest in unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) are presented in Figure 4-10. The USV family, which consists of vessels that are mostly in the design, prototype, and demonstration stages, range from large- (>100 meters) and medium-size combatants (e.g., SEA HUNTER) to small coastal patrol
boats and minehunting and minesweeping vessels.27,28 The Navy’s interest in UUVs is likewise varied in terms of mission uses and vehicle scales and ranges. The UUV family ranges from small, highly portable vehicles (having platforms of less 12 meters in length) to extra-large vehicles weighing more than a highway truck and exceeding 50 meters in length.29 As scale increases the Navy’s emphasis is on multi-mission capability including armed conflict. At smaller scales the vehicles are often purpose-designed for missions such as minehunting and clearing.
By way of example, the unmanned Knifefish is a medium-class mine cUUV designed for deployment off littoral combat ships.30 It is a derivative of the civilian Bluefin-21, which has a modular design that can be adapted
29 Presentation by CAPT Small to the committee on February 19, 2020.
to carry a variety of sensors and payloads, which makes it suitable for many missions including offshore surveying, marine salvage detection, and oceanography. The Knifefish exemplifies how the Navy also deploys off-the-shelf unmanned technologies that can be adapted to specific mission sets, not unlike how the Coast Guard has effectively used the commercially developed UAV ScanEagle.
In embracing UxS, the Navy has created special units for testing, integrating, and fielding USVs and UUVs. UUVRON-1, which is housed in the developmental squadron DEVRON-5 in Keyport, Washington, was created in 2017 to eventually operate and maintain all UUV classes. In 2019, the Navy stood up an equivalent squadron for large- and medium-size USVs. The Surface Development Squadron 1, which is based in San Diego, California, is charged with experimenting with the operations and integration of USVs to accelerate their delivery for fleet warfighting capability. In essence, both squadrons are charged with putting UxSs in the hands of those who will deploy and operate them, both for early uses and to learn more about their operations, supply, maintenance, and integration into the force structure.
As a further indication of DOD’s early embrace of UxS, in 2007 it issued the UxS Roadmap 2007–2032 to guide the future development of military UxS and related technologies in ways that leverage and prioritize the funding and development of UxS technology across the military.31 The roadmap, which has been updated multiple times,32 was issued to ensure that UxS capabilities were being pursued in a cooperative and collaborative manner across the services and supported by joint standards and efforts to ensure interoperability of air, ground, and sea systems, both manned and unmanned. The roadmap not only identifies challenges to achieving a range of desired outcomes such as interoperability, integration, cybersecurity, affordability, technological progress, and conformance laws and policies, but also identifies a range of approaches for meeting these challenges.
In 2015, the Secretary of the Navy issued a department-wide memo titled “Treat Unmanned as Unmanned.”33 The memo emphasizes that UxS differ fundamentally from their manned counterparts, and therefore
31 U.S. DOD. 2007. Unmanned Systems Roadmap, 2007–2032. https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a475002.pdf.
32 U.S. DOD. 2011. Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, 2011–2036. https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a475002.pdfhttps://fas.org/irp/program/collect/usroadmap2011.pdf; U.S. DOD. 2017. Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, 2017–2042. https://www.defensedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/post_attachment/206477.pdf.
33 The Secretary of the Navy. 2015. “Memorandum for Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Chief of Naval Operations Commandant of the Marine Corps: Treat Unmanned as Unmanned.” https://www.secnav.navy.mil/innovation/Documents/2015/11/TreatUnmannedAsUnmannedMemo.pdf.
the policies and procedures needed to field and sustain them should differ. In the memo, the Secretary established the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems (DASN (UxS)) with responsibility for bringing together all UxS stakeholders to streamline their efforts toward successful development, employment, and sustainment of UxSs.34 For instance, the DASN (UxS) would be responsible for identifying manned system requirements germane to the design, development, and evaluation of UxSs and for issuing a comprehensive, department-wide roadmap with aggressive actions for overcoming UxS development and deployment obstacles to both. The memo went further in establishing a Director for Unmanned Systems in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations to support the DASN (UxS).
In 2018, the Navy issued the strategic roadmap for UxSs. Although the full version is not available for public release, the public summary cites the Service’s goal of enabling the integration of UxSs into every aspect of naval operations and ensuring fully integrated manned and unmanned teaming.35 The plan also emphasizes the importance of ensuring appropriate cybersecurity rigor, infrastructure and logistic support, acquisition processes, and legal and policy conformance. Accompanying this strategic plan are a series of master plans for aerial, surface, and undersea UxSs. These plans comport with the Service’s broader vision of a future Navy that has migrated to a more heterogeneous and distributed operational concept in which multiple platform solutions—consisting of manned and unmanned systems—greatly enhance combat force effectiveness.36
Following nearly 3 years of consolidated strategic planning for UxSs across all naval warfighting domains and completion of the UxS roadmap, the DASN (UxS) office was disestablished in 2018. UxS activities were then distributed into two separate program executive offices—one for maritime systems and the other for aviation systems—where domain-specific UxS activities would be further developed.37
34 Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems (DASN (UxS)). https://www.secnav.navy.mil/rda/Pages/Unmanned-Systems.aspx#:~:text=DASN(UxS)%20brings%20together%20all,imbed%20unmanned%20systems%20of%20systems.
35 U.S. Navy. 2018. Department of the Navy Strategic Roadmap for Unmanned Systems—Short Version. https://www.secnav.navy.mil/rda/Documents/DON-Strategic-Roadmap-forUnmanned-Systems.docx#:~:text=The%20Department%20of%20the%20Navy,every%20aspect%20of%20Naval%20operation.
36 See, for instance, the Naval R&D Framework at https://www.onr.navy.mil/en/our-research/naval-research-framework.
37 Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants. https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/PEO-Unmanned-and-Small-Combatants; Program Executive Office, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. https://www.navair.navy.mil/organization/peo-uw.
U.S. Department of the Interior
In managing and protecting federal lands, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) faces some of the same challenges as the Coast Guard in that it must monitor vast areas and engage in personnel-intensive activities such as search and rescue, firefighting, and lifesaving in environments that can be harsh and hostile for operating personnel. Also like the Coast Guard, it has modest resourcing.
Officials from DOI’s Office of Aviation Services (OAS) briefed the committee on its use over the past decade of sUAS for a variety of applications intended to reduce exposure of personnel and create new capabilities. One notable example is an instrumented sUAS that is used for wildfire surveillance and other purposes. The OAS briefers demonstrated how the system was used to visually and chemically monitor and chart lava flows from the Kilauea Volcano in conditions where manned aircraft could not operate due to low visibility and other hazards. During the course of this successful application, the system provided an additional unanticipated benefit by spotting a pedestrian who had become trapped between lava flows. With the aid of the UAS, emergency responders established communications with the individual and used the UAS to guide the escape pathway.38
Over the years, OAS has found increasing applications for its sUASs. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of flights rose from about 500 to more than 10,000 per year.39 The increased flights covering more than 30 missions, and the accompanying experimentation, have led to many refinements in the program. In 2018, OAS published a primer on the use of optionally-piloted helicopters able to not only perform all the functions of a traditional helicopter in piloted mode, but also missions when unmanned, including operating in dark and hazardous environments without risking the safety of pilots.40 In this case, OAS leveraged DOD’s development of an optionally piloted helicopter for the Marine Corps to extend logistics support in environments too hostile to risk using an aircrew.
With most—if not all—of its UASs being foreign-made, in January 2020 DOI temporarily grounded all of its UASs out of concern that sensitive data could be transmitted to foreign organizations.41
38 U.S. Department of the Interior. 2018. “DOI UAS Teams Supporting Volcano Monitoring & Emergency Response/Rescue.”
39 “U.S. Department of the Interior Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) 2018 Use Report.”
40 U.S. Department of the Interior. “Optionally-Piloted Helicopters.” https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/doi_uas_background_info_paper_gamechanger_the_promise_of_optionally-piloted_helicopters_in_wildland_fire_08_2018.pdf.
41 U.S. Department of the Interior. Order No. 3379. “Temporary Cessation of Non-Emergency Unmanned Aircraft Systems Fleet Operations.” https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/elips/documents/signed-so-3379-uas-1.29.2020-508.pdf.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
With the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been an early adopter of UxSs, for example, by deploying robots for bomb disposal.42 The FBI has also been active in deploying a fleet of sUAVs, consisting of a mix of fixed-wing and rotor-wing systems available commercially.43 Having used UASs periodically for about a decade, the FBI had increased its UAV fleet to 17 units by 2014. According to briefings by the FBI’s Aviation Office, the growing fleet is expecting to fly as many as 14,000 missions by 2023. Applications include surveillance, mission pre-planning, rural searches, crime-scene documentation, and evidence gathering, both indoor and outdoor, and frequently in confined spaces and low light.
In addition to being subject to all relevant FAA regulations governing UAVs and the safe use of airspace, the FBI must comply with DOJ-wide policies and guidelines intended to ensure that agencies carrying out their law enforcement and national security missions use these systems in a manner that respects individual privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
For several years, NOAA has used UxSs for an assortment of missions, including seafloor and habitat mapping, ocean exploration, marine mammal and fishery stock assessments, emergency response, and at-sea observations of algal bloom and hypoxia events. The systems consist of purpose-built and modified off-the-shelf technologies, including the following sUASs and UUVs:
- REMUS 600 (UUV) deployed from ships for bathymetric mapping missions. Rated for 1,500-meter depths and 24-hour endurance, it is an off-the-shelf technology but highly modular to enable mission-specific payload variations;
- L3 Latitude hybrid quadrotor (a VTOL sUAS) deployed from the shipdeck or shore for climate and air quality studies, fishery and mammal surveys, weather observations, oil spill detection, and post severe weather damage assessments;
42 Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Special Agent Bomb Technicians.” https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/fun-games/tools_of_the_trade/tools-of-the-trade-bomb-technicians-text-version.
43 “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Use and Support of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” 2015.
- Deep Discoverer (UUV) deployed from ships to map and characterize deepwater areas. Remotely operated and tethered, the vehicle/robot can dive to depths of 6,000 meters;44
- Glider UUVs launched from ships for collecting ocean temperature, salinity, and other data in remote ocean locations, including deployments in partnership with the Navy and Shell Oil in the Gulf of Mexico to provide data for improving hurricane intensity forecasts; and,
- Hexacopter (a VTOL sUAS) deployed from the shipdeck or shore for marine mammal monitoring in difficult-to-traverse terrains, such as the remote Aleutian Islands.
In briefing the committee on the agency’s longstanding and continuously expanding use of UxSs, NOAA officials explained how in 2018 Congress required the agency to coordinate research, assess, and acquire unmanned maritime systems in collaboration with the Navy, other federal agencies, industry, and academia. Congress further appropriated $12.7 million in FY 2020 for the creation of a centralized UxS Operations Program.45 Consequently, NOAA (in February 2020) issued a UxS Strategic Implementation Plan that established five goals for expanded UxS operations across the agency.46 The goals call for (a) a centrally coordinated and supported UxS operations at the enterprise level, (b) the purposeful expansion of UxS across all units of the agency, (c) accelerated transitions of UxS research to field application, (d) strong and expanded partnerships across NOAA and with other organizations, and (e) a workforce with a high level of proficiency in UxS operations.
Although not intended to be a detailed roadmap of UxS initiatives, NOAA’s strategic plan contains a series of objectives aimed at furthering each of the five goals. For example, there are objectives for establishing an effective and adaptive organizational structure, partnering with universities and the private sector, training and certifying personnel, ensuring cybersecurity, introducing appropriate acquisition mechanisms, and building a thriving community of practice that is supportive of experimental and innovative UxS designs and uses. According to the strategic plan, NOAA is working on more detailed tactical plans (i.e., a roadmap) for each goal
44 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Remotely Operated Vehicle Deep Discoverer.” https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/technology/subs/deep-discoverer/deep-discoverer.html.
45 See the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act of 2018 (CENOTE, P.L. 115-394), which requires NOAA to coordinate research, assess, and acquire unmanned maritime systems with the U.S. Navy, other federal agencies, industry, and academia.
46 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2020. NOAA Unmanned Systems Strategy. https://nrc.noaa.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=0tHu8Kl8DBs%3D&tabid=93&portalid=0.
and objective that will specify action items, deadlines, and assignments for organizational responsibilities.
UxS PROGRAM FEATURES RELEVANT TO THE COAST GUARD
As the Coast Guard expands its use of UxS, some of the key features of the UxS programs reviewed above merit consideration. Among the features that standout are (a) development of a comprehensive strategy for the use of UxS and actionable roadmaps for developing, acquiring, deploying, and integrating them; (b) creation of a central office responsible for advocating for UxSs, monitoring and coordinating UxS research, acquisitions, and deployments across the agency, and facilitating changes in policies and practices needed to further their use and integration; (c) recognition of the importance of programs dedicated to training personnel in UxS operations and support functions; (d) budgets dedicated for UxS R&D, acquisitions, and supportive investments; and (e) openness to, and indeed encouragement of, prototyping and field experimentation with a wide array of UxSs for different missions, including the creative use off-the-shelf technologies—with the establishment of dedicated squadrons or field units.
Having made large investments in UxSs for more than two decades, the Navy (and the entire DOD enterprise) intends for most, if not all, of these systems to accelerate the development and deployment of UxSs and ensure operational integration, appropriate cybersecurity rigor, infrastructure and logistics support, acquisition processes, and legal and policy conformance. The Navy’s enormous investments in UxSs (both current and planned), imperative for seamless integration with manned forces, and vision of UxSs playing a central role in future operational concepts compel such a deliberate approach to planning, developing, integrating, and sustaining UxSs.
The need to be deliberate, however, is not scale-driven. For example, NOAA’s varied and extensive use of UxSs has emerged in a largely organic manner, seemingly facilitated by its many science-oriented missions and an organizational culture that encourages and values experimentation. In this case, too, the agency has recognized that, in the absence of more purposeful, enterprise-level efforts to expand and accelerate the use of UxSs, a wealth of mission-enhancing applications for these technologies could go neglected. Accordingly—and with prompting and funding support from Congress—NOAA recently established a central office for UxSs, issued a strategic plan that articulates the goals and objectives of its UxS investments, and indicated its intention to create a more detailed roadmap of actions to further these goals and objectives through specific organizational, procedural, and funding steps.
Although their uses of UxS remain limited, DOI and the FBI have illustrated the value of encouraging field-level experimentation with commercial,
off-the-shelf technologies. Over time, both agencies have gained familiarity with the systems, including workforces that have increased their technical and operational proficiency, and each has discovered a growing number of useful applications. In some respects, their experience resembles that of the Coast Guard, which has fostered unit-level experimentation with low-cost, commercial systems. Although the committee is not aware of any plans by DOI or the FBI to engage in more strategic planning for future UxS application or to establish a central office for furthering agency-wide use of these systems, NOAA’s recognition of the need to take these additional steps to scale UxS activity is illuminating.
The committee observes that the Coast Guard has recognized the importance of proceeding strategically to advance agency-critical initiatives. Over the past several years, for example, the Coast Guard Commandant’s office has issued several strategic-level documents intended to attract the attention of top leadership to a critical Coast Guard interest and to set in motion the organization-wide steps needed to advance the interest. The strategies not only compel the senior leadership of the Coast Guard to act purposefully and in concert, but also convey the urgency for doing so. Recent examples are the Commandant’s arctic,47 cyber,48 and human capital49 strategies. The Arctic Strategy was a catalyst for the Coast Guard’s initiative to invest in a new fleet of polar icebreakers, deemed critical to the Service’s mission to uphold the country’s sovereignty and to respond to contingencies in the Arctic. The Cyber Strategy emphasizes how cybertechnology is inextricably linked with all aspects of Coast Guard mission performance and articulates strategic priorities for operating effectively within the cyber domain and countering and protecting against maritime cybersecurity threats. The Human Capital strategy lays out a 10-year plan to build and maintain a proficient, diverse, and adaptable workforce to respond to changing technology and an increasingly complex operating environment.
It is notable that both the Cyber Strategy and Human Capital Strategy point to the importance of senior leadership and organizational structures committed to advocating for the interest and pursuing implementation. For example, the Human Capital Strategy directs the Assistant Commandant for Human Resources and Force Readiness Command to spearhead the plan in coordination with other critical units such as the Civil Rights
47 U.S. Coast Guard. 2013. United States Coast Guard Arctic Strategy. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/Strategy/cg_arctic_strategy.pdf.
48 U.S. Coast Guard. 2015. United States Coast Guard Cyber Strategy. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/Strategy/Cyber%20Strategy.pdf.
49 U.S. Coast Guard. 2016. United States Coast Guard Human Capital Strategy. https://www.work.uscg.mil/Portals/6/Documents/PDF/CG_Human_Capital_Strategy.pdf.
Directorate and Rating Force Master Chiefs.50 Although it does not call for a new organizational structure, the Cyber Strategy emphasizes the importance of the Coast Guard developing a command and control structure that ensures that the diverse cyber elements within the Service coordinate and cooperate with each other and align their activities with Coast Guard tactical and strategic priorities.51 It calls for more centralization by creating policies and processes to facilitate requests for and approval of cyber support for operations, standards for planning and conducting cyber operations, and means of recording and learning from Coast Guard cyberspace operations.
50 U.S. Coast Guard. 2016. United States Coast Guard Human Capital Strategy. https://www.work.uscg.mil/Portals/6/Documents/PDF/CG_Human_Capital_Strategy.pdf.
51 U.S. Coast Guard. 2015. United States Coast Guard Cyber Strategy. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/Strategy/Cyber%20Strategy.pdf.