By Bob Brewin 04/04/2012
The State Department wants to acquire its own fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles to help protect diplomats posted to Iraq and other dangerous countries and in March, issued a request for proposals for contractors to provide the aircraft, crew and support on a turnkey basis.
State already operates UAVs over Iraq to help provide protection for the 2,000 diplomats and 14,000 contractors at the $750 million 440,000-square-foot embassy, The New York Times reported in January.
The procurement 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. The UAVs will help identify operational problems and potential threats, the department noted in the performance work statement.
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.
(sUAS News note, not sure the Gnat 750 is hand launched http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_GNAT an AV Raven would be)