V-BAT drone Canadian Coast Guard trials show “comprehensive airspace picture”

By Oliver Smith

Software company Kongsberg Geospatial has announced that the Canadian Coast Guard completed off-shore sea trials for Shield AI’s V-BAT Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Trials were completed in January 2022 in international waters as the second and latest phase in a series of trials, the first of which took place in August of last year.

Kongsberg Geospatial’s IRIS UxS software was used to pilot the UAS through the trials. According to Kongsberg Geospatial, the IRIS software has the ability to provide “a comprehensive picture of the operational airspace, data from a variety of sensors and data feeds – and shows the location of aircraft and surface ships”. Kongsberg’s Modular ISR Data Analysis and Storage (MIDAS) system was also used as a ‘mission intelligence coordinator’ to process and view intelligence feeds from the V-BAT.

The V-BAT was chosen by the Canadian Coast Guard in part for its Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) design, which allows the drone to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions while operating in challenging environments that may restrict the take-off and landing opportunities. Employing UAS capable of VTOL in particularly demanding conditions imparts clear advantages, especially in cases of time-critical operations typical of the Coast Guard.

The V-BAT was assessed on its VTOL capability in a variety of weather conditions, night and day. The Director of Unmanned Systems at Kongsberg Geospatial, Rex Hayes, said of the testing environment, “While the sea conditions were perhaps a little rougher than expected, they were ideal for testing the launch and recovery capabilities of the V-BAT”. The V-BAT underwent similar trials with the US Marine Corps aboard the USS Portland in October of last year.

The trials also tested the ability of the V-BAT to assist the Coast Guard in, among others, oil spills and man overboard situations (simulated through dye streams and scattered life preservers).

The trials were carried out by the Canadian Coast Guard and funded by Defence Research and Development Canada.

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