V-Bat Unmanned Aerial System for US Coast Guard


Shield AI has received another order for its V-Bat Unmanned Aerial System. The US Coast Guard announced on 2 July 2024 its award of a UD$198 million contract to the company for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) utilizing the V-Bat.

The contact services will be provided as a Contractor Owned Contractor Operated (COCO) where the company utilizes its owns and maintains its assets while providing ISR services as required by the Coast Guard.

V-Bat, also designated the MQ-35A, utilizes a unique single-engine ducted fan design that provides for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operation. The UAS can launch and recover from a hover and fly at up to 90 kmph (56 mph) on wing in horizontal flight. With a total weight of only 58 kg (125 lb) and 3 meter (9.7 ft) wingspan V-Bat can be handled by two persons and go from transport configuration to being prepared for launch in twenty minutes. Requiring only a compact 3.6 m X 3.6 m (12 ft X 12 ft) area for either take-off or landing makes the aerial platform ideally suited for not only employment from a naval vessel but also from a concealed space in an urban area, forest, or other covered position by a ground force. With ten hours flight time and 6,100 m (20,000 ft) altitude and quiet electric power V-Bat’s stabilized electro-optic sensor payload provides persistent covert surveillance.

Originally developed by Martin UAS, now Shield AI, the V-Bat has seen over five years operational experience including a US Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment in 2020, extensive shipboard trials by the US Navy, and its selection as a candidate for the US Army Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS) program which will select a replacement for the Army’s current RQ-7 Shadow UAS.

Further development has recently introduced the ability for a single operator to simultaneously control multiple V-Bats. This allows for their use in “swarming” tactics. This facility can be teamed with V-Bat platforms with a laser-designator sensor payload and other V-Bat platforms equipped to carry and launch guided munitions like the Northrop Grumman Hatchet. The resulting combination provides for V-Bat flights which can through a single control conduct surveillance, targeting, and engagement of precision targets utilizing mission task specific configured platforms.

Brandon Tseng, Shield AI’s President, Co-founder, and a former Navy SEAL stated these V-Bat orders are “indicative of a broader market movement where increasingly customers are recognizing they can accomplish the vast majority of their mission sets with affordable drones”.

by Stephen W. Miller