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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 1, 2023

Changing the way we do business

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG staff writer

Employing unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) is one of many ways the Coast Guard is using technology to sharpen our competitive edge to enhance capabilities and reduce risks.  

The Coast Guard has about 250 trained drone operators at 45 units across the service. Operators can launch a UAS to support operations ranging from search and rescue and oil spill response to post-storm port assessment and facility inspections.  

On March 8, Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Ronkowski of Sector Mobile deployed a Parrot Anafi UAS in response to an oil rig fire at the local shipyard. He used the UAS’s infrared capability to identify hotspots for the Mobile Fire Department as they combatted the blaze.   

Strike teams and marine environmental response teams love the capability. Lt. Cmdr. Sam Hill, the CG’s short-range UAS platform manager, said, “This is truly a game changing capability. Our users in the fleet can’t say enough about the capabilities, efficiency and effectiveness of these systems. For example, teams arrive on scene at a spill and instead of requesting a helo, they throw this thing up in the air. Within minutes of arrival, they’re getting footage and can get that back to the leadership at the unit.  

This emerging technology is a massive force multiplier across every Coast Guard mission set. From facilities, ATON (aids to navigation) and vessel inspections to post-hurricane response and search and rescue, this capability can augment the execution of nearly every mission set.” 

Interested in using UAS for your unit?  Check out the Short Range UAS SharePoint site for more information.  

You can read more about the UAS program in the Coast Guard's Unmanned Systems Strategic Plan and The Reservist Magazine.