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United States The Military Transportation Technology

US Navy Is Planning To Launch a Squadron of Underwater Drones By 2020 (robohub.org) 38

Hallie Siegel writes: According to the non-profit Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Applications Center, there are over 250 different configurations of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) in service today. That number is likely to grow in the coming years as the technology improves — note that the US Navy has made UUVs a priority and is planning to launch a whole squadron of them by 2020. Dan Gettinger from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College gives an overview of this technology.
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US Navy Is Planning To Launch a Squadron of Underwater Drones By 2020

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  • Drones in 4th dimention.
  • Misread title as "underwear drones" and already got excited that for once there's something new to read. Such a shame, underwear drones sounds like a much more fun topic than underwater drones.

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      Misread title as "underwear drones" and already got excited that for once there's something new to read. Such a shame, underwear drones sounds like a much more fun topic than underwater drones.

      You are obviously not the first person to find this topic fun [cafepress.co.uk].

  • Are they making "whiskers" (Wireless Sea Knowledge Retrieval Satellites) for a large deep sea vehicle that they will call.. I dunno... SeaQuest?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @08:27AM (#50946613) Journal
    In a limited sense, the navy has been using autonomous underwater drones [fas.org] for ages now.

    That aside, though, submarines might well benefit even more than aircraft if you can get them working reasonably autonomously: adding enough room for a human and life support is hardly free in an aircraft; but at least the pressure difference between the cockpit and the outside is always going to be fairly modest. A submarine has no such luxury; with all but the ones purpose-built for deep sea research being restricted to fairly shallow dives by the fact that 'crush depth' is exactly what it sounds like.

    If you can get rid of the requirement for a pocket of air, you make surviving the pressures of deep water vastly easier and cheaper. Plus, removing the crew cuts down on limits to endurance: the electronics will require some power, and you still require power if you want to change depth or move; but you could drift with the current, waiting for an activation signal or a suitably interesting passive sonar signature for months on a mere trickle of power.

    On the minus side, can you imagine how much fun somebody with an interest in disrupting shipping could have with cheap, long-endurance, largely autonomous submarines? A lousy little fiberglass hull, since it's just to reduce drag, not to resist pressure; a big bladder of diesel, flooded batteries, an epoxy puck of electronics, and a little generator to top up the batteries when they get low. Dive depth would be limited primarily by the desire to keep water out of the generator, which would introduce a few gas pockets that could crush(if this really bothered you, you could flood the generator with a noncorrosive fluid for greatly increased crush resistance; at the cost of having to purge that before you can start running it); and set it loose to drift around the vicinity of the shipping lane of your choice until it hears a ship large enough to be worth blowing itself up against...

    Such a thing wouldn't be cheap by consumer standards; even small fishing/pleasure craft can run you 5 to mid 6 figures; and everything costs more underwater; but when a classy nuclear submarine can run you well north of 2 billion; and a 'cheap' diesel-electric ~500million; this sort of IED-of-the-sea would be virtually disposable by comparison.
    • +1 shudder
      • On the bright side, the tech would also be amenable to the production of improved narco-subs; so even if our container ships and oil tankers aren't making it through, we'll have something to take our minds off our problems!
    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

      If you can get rid of the requirement for a pocket of air, you make surviving the pressures of deep water vastly easier and cheaper.

      Not having a pocket of air sure makes changing depth a bitch, though.

      • You would need to be approximately neutrally buoyant, especially if low-energy loitering is the plan; but liquids lighter than water can also serve that purpose(and, since they are denser than air you'll need a larger volume of them; but since they are nearly in-compressible you just need an impermiable membrane rather than a pressure vessel).

        Off the cuff, I'd imagine that the easiest thing to do would be to use your fuel bladder for buoyancy, with ballast you discard as you consume the fuel. For the wei
    • by bmk67 ( 971394 )

      If you can get rid of the requirement for a pocket of air [...]

      You cannot, not without sacrificing the ability to surface and change depth.

      Good luck with that.

      • Changing the volume of a pocket of air, swim bladder style, is certainly a good option for controlling buoyancy if you don't want to go too deep; but using low density liquids to reach neutral buoyancy, and then relying on control surfaces to 'fly' up or down is also an option.

        Fish have actually evolved in both directions; some have swim bladders and manipulate gas pockets for buoyancy control, some lack them; and have a largely constant density(depending on how much fatty tissue vs. bone and stuff they
    • by lhowaf ( 3348065 )
      Couldn't we just make even cheaper drones that go out and make sounds like a big target?
  • Or the F-35 or other "research projects" that the DoD seems to be spending money on that go nowhere? That "intelligent" fence along the border that costs millions but only covers 35 miles or something.

    Clearly, their are people who are looking to retire into a C-level position and are kicking these programs off.
  • Doesn't the word "drone" imply something that flies? Are those unmanned submarines drones even if they cannot fly?
  • he for one welcomes his new under water drone overlords. Daaarwin smaaart dolphin. Darwin go play fetch laser now.

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