Navy demos unmanned helicopter for Coast Guard

The Navy's MQ-8 Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter, is put through its paces from a Coast Guard cutter to demonstrate its capabilities.
By Richard Tomkins  |  Dec. 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM
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PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- An unmanned aerial vehicle has been operated from a U.S. National Security Cutter as part of a Coast Guard assessment for using drone aircraft.

The 10-day demonstration earlier this month was conducted by the U.S. Navy using its MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter and met all the Coast Guard's objectives, performing launch and recovery operations, conducting various simulated search patterns and transmitting data and imagery, the Navy reported.

"This Navy team has extensive and exclusive unmanned helo expertise and we're happy to provide those lessons learned to the Coast Guard," said Bob Ernst, Multi-Mission Tactical UAS program chief engineer at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. "Our team worked rapidly over the last 11 months to ensure we were ready to support their efforts as well as test new system capabilities for the Navy."

The Navy has successfully operated MQ-8 system from frigates, guided missile destroyers and littoral combat ships. The testing aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf marked its first at-sea radar test and first integration of the mobile ground control station configuration of the aircraft.

"The existing MQ-8 system was already 90 percent compatible with the cutter-class," said Harsha Desai, lead engineer for the Coast Guard integration effort. "To minimize the impact to the ship, we developed a mobile ground control station configuration for our Mission Control System."

The mobile GCS enhances the aircraft's rapid response to tasking, while the radar used increases situational awareness and threat warning in a high-traffic, close-to-shore environments.

The MQ-8 unmanned helicopter is made by Northrop Grumman.

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