It’s likely that you have heard about the drones patrolling the war-torn skies of Afghanistan, and maybe you’ve read about the drones that Amazon and Domino’s plan to use by 2015 for delivering products directly to your door, but have you heard about the Navy’s new underwater drone?
In 2014, a year before the Federal Aviation Authority allows drone use in American skies, the Navy plans to launch the fruits of its five year, $56 million underwater drone project: the “Slocum Glider."
These incredible machines will not require fuel but will instead use a process called “hydraulic buoyancy,” which allows the drone to move up and down and in and out of underwater currents that will help it move at a speed of about one mile per hour.
Its slowness is not a problem, since the drone’s primary use won’t be for attacking enemy submarines or ships, but instead to stealthily move around under water, sending information to other military vessels.
Currently the drones are being used to supplement sonar in collecting data, but it is hoped that they will eventually be able to assist in the detection and disarming of underwater mines and enemy submarines.
“For mine countermeasures and other tasks important to expeditionary warfare ... ultimately reducing or eliminating the need for sailors and Marines to enter the dangerous shallow waters just off shore in order to clear mines in preparation for expeditionary operations.”
Ben Allsup, Teledyne Webb Research
The Navy has recently enlisted the help of Teledyne Webb Research to help maximize the potential of the drones in carrying weaponry and more advanced sonars.
“Carrying a wide variety of sensors, they can be programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, surfacing to transmit their data to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals, realizing a substantial cost savings compared to traditional surface ships,” reads the Slocum Glider page on Teledyne’s website.
Deployed from the submerged submarine USS Providence, the NRL developed XFC unmanned aircraft is vertically launched from a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle (bottom right).
The folding wing UAS autonomously deploys its X-wing airfoil and after achieving a marginal altitude, assumes horizontal flight configuration.
Earlier this month, the Navy successfully launched a drone from a submerged submarine.
Using the torpedo tubes to launch a buoy to the service, the drone then launches from a floating position within a canister.