• State Department to Acquire Own Drone Fleet

    April 11, 2012 // Comments Off on State Department to Acquire Own Drone Fleet

    According to NextGov, the State Department plans on acquiring its own fleet of (so far unarmed) aerial drones. Because sure, why not? Nothing says “diplomacy” these days better than showing some swag violating foreign air space because we freaking can. This development can only make the US more popular overseas, that is for certain.

    Just as a thought experiment, how do you think the US would feel if say the Chinese or the Iranians wanted to fly drones over the US to watch over their own diplomats (the Iranians have a UN mission in New York)? Any issues there?

    The State Department has issued a request for proposals for contractors to provide the aircraft, crew and support on a turnkey basis. The procurement request released last month and updated Monday marks the start of a project to provide the department with UAV assets that could be deployed anywhere in the world. State did not say how many aircraft it eventually planned to deploy.

    In its 2011 annual report, State’s Diplomatic Security Bureau said it tested UAVs in December 2010 in cooperation with the Defense Department and planned to deploy them to Iraq in 2011.

    The mission of the UAV program is to provide real-time air surveillance of fixed installations and the ground routes that diplomats travel “thereby improving security in high-threat environments,” State said.

    State intends to acquire two types of aircraft in conformance with standards established by the Air Force. It wants to operate Tier I hand-launched UAVs such as the Gnat-750, manufactured by General Atomics, which can operate at altitudes of 500 to 2,000 feet and at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. These aircraft should be equipped with video and heat sensors that downlink still and streaming video and use built-in GPS navigation with a range of 250 miles.

    The RFP also calls for contractors to supply Tier II and Tier II UAVs and aircraft such as the General Atomics Predator, which can fly as high as 18,000 feet and has a range of 250 miles. The original RFP sought aircraft with a range of 900 miles. Tier II UAVs must also be able to downlink still and streaming video and use GPS navigation.

    The State UAV project has already attracted 62 interested bidders, including manufacturers such as General Atomics and a number of aerospace companies, as well as systems integrators such as Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 Communications and Lockheed Martin Corp. Bids are due April 23.

    Maybe the State Department’s public diplomacy social media people can get in on this, say holding a contest on Twitter, the winner gets his/her house buzzed by a drone. Or something on Facebook where whomever gets the least “likes” has a Hellfire missile sent down their timeline?

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    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State