By Angelica Fiona for Infosurhoy.com – 31/07/2013
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – The U.S. Coast Guard recently conducted its first narcotics interdiction with the support of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) when authorities confiscated more than 560 kilograms of cocaine off a go-fast boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
The UAS was being tested during the second of three planned shipboard demonstrations to gauge the system’s capabilities aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf. The demonstrations are part of an ongoing test of UAS capabilities and shipboard handling techniques.
Coast Guard officials operated a ScanEagle UAS for more than 90 hours during a two-week deployment in May.
One of the biggest highlights occurred when the ScanEagle provided real-time surveillance and information on the location of a go-fast vessel that was suspected of carrying narcotics on May 29 in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The UAS tracked the suspicious vessel until the Bertholf’s MH-65D helicopter and boats intercepted the vessel and arrested its crew members in connection with the seizure of 567 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated US$19 million.
The cocaine was offloaded at U.S. Coast Guard Station Miami Beach, Fla., on July 1.
The narcotics-carrying vessel was initially spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft, before it was tracked by the UAS and interdicted by Bertholf officers.
The UAS was evaluated by a team of technicians and aviators from Coast Guard Headquarters, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, Coast Guard Air Station North Bend, Ore., and Insitu Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based company that makes unmanned aerial vehicles.