By Troy Brynelson / The Columbian
Insitu has won a contract worth up to $117 million to help the U.S. Coast Guard watch the seas.
The Bingen-based drone maker will help the Coast Guard outfit its patrol vessels with unmanned aircraft systems, installing about two per year for up to eight years.
The deal, announced Thursday, will put Insitu workers and equipment aboard the Coast Guard’s national security cutters to interdict drug trafficking, assist in search-and-rescue missions and assist in other activities.
Jon Damush, chief growth officer for the drone maker, said they had anticipated receiving the contract and plan to hire more employees to work aboard the ships.
“We look forward to supporting the men and women of the Coast Guard during those missions,” he said.
Because the contract was anticipated, it was already built into the Boeing subsidiary’s financial plan. “These things are never like ‘Oh my God,’ sink-or-swim kind of things,” he said. “We identified the risks that face the business should we not win (the contract) or should changes be made… but at the end of the day there is a highly planned effort to put ourselves in the best position to win contracts like these.”
The contract won’t be Insitu’s first time at sea. It already deployed its ScanEagle drone aboard a Coast Guard ship on a trial basis for the past year-and-a-half.
Jeff Bishop, program manager for the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Acquisition, said in the announcement that this deal is more than a toe in the water for integrating drones.
“This contract is only the beginning for unmanned systems within the Coast Guard and to be at the very beginning of this paradigm shift is an amazing experience,” he said.
Besides its headquarters in Bingen, Insitu has facilities in Oregon, California, Mississippi, England and Australia.