U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers successfully landed an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Healy Monday, marking the first time a UAS has completed a take-off and landing aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker.
UAS operators from AeroVironment, designers of the Puma All Environment UAS, working alongside researchers from the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) and NOAA made necessary adjustments following several unsuccessful attempts to land the Puma AE on the icebreaker’s flight deck. High winds, heavy fog, and icing conditions delayed further attempts until Monday night when skies cleared enough for another attempt. UAS operators came close to landing the system on the initial attempt before managing three successful landings.
Researchers and crew aboard the Healy left Seward, Alaska, Aug. 8 to conduct testing of the Puma AE and other technologies for use as oil spill tracking tools. The UAS is equipped with an electro-optical and infrared camera allowing its operator to keep constant watch over the device’s target.
The Coast Guard RDC and NOAA hope to utilize UAS and other unmanned technologies to perform monitoring and search operations in the Arctic and other areas where hazardous conditions might otherwise place human observers in increased danger.
Coast Guard Cutter Healy is a 420-foot icebreaker homeported in Seattle, Wash.