MAYPORT, Fla (NNS) -- The MQ-8B Fire Scout, a Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV), returned from its first operational deployment April 15.
The VTUAV was embarked aboard USS McInerney (FFG 8) during their recent six-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Area of Responsibility.
Fire Scout is an autonomously controlled helicopter used by McInerney to scan waters for drug smugglers.
Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW/SW) Stephen Diets, the fleet liaison for Fire Scout and one of the first enlisted air vehicle operators (AVO), said Fire Scout has the advantage of being able to hover unlike traditional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
McInerney is the first ship to support Fire Scout-one of the Navy's newest unmanned flight technologies.
"It's one of the Navy's newest systems, we brought it to bear on the mission, and it has challenged us to think in new ways to accomplish our goals," said Cmdr. Paul Young, McInerney's commanding officer.
McInerney is the first ship to make a drug bust using a VTUAV with a drug interdiction April 3. Fire Scout was on a post-maintenance check flight when the operators spotted suspected narcotics smugglers.
"We got the first Fire Scout drug bust on the deployment, it was very exciting, and it's mostly thanks to all the hard work by the air detachment's maintainers," said Diets.
The ship's crew also shared in the excitement of the bust.
"It's exciting to make a bust, when you stop the drugs and put people in jail it really defines our whole mission, it makes it all worth being out here, and this bust was groundbreaking," said Command Master Chief John T. Lawry, McInerney's command master chief.
The VTUAV, while on deployment, was kept up and running thanks to the maintenance crew of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 42 Det. 7, who served as McInerney's air support.
According to Lt. Tobias Walters, lead AVO with HSL-42 Det. 7, Fire Scout did well during its first deployment.
"I think the deployment was a success, we were able to operate in a shipboard environment and even got the first successful drug bust, I think we proved that Fire Scout is an asset that can bring the Navy success in the future," said Walters.
Fire Scout can reach speeds of up to 85 knots, reach altitudes of 20,000 feet and fly for more than six hours on one tank of gas. It has officially completed its first operational deployment and according to Walters, it is a technology that will integrate well with today's Navy.
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