Navy launches drone from submerged sub

Small drone emerges from torpedo tube, unfolds, sends back video

ONR
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said it has successfully launched an unmanned electric fuel cell aircraft from a submerged submarine.

The NRL said its unmanned system, known as eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System, was fired from the USS Providence using the sub's torpedo tube and the Navy's 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system. The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty launch canister used for firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

[IN THE NEWS: Bitcoin's highest highs, lowest lows]

[MORE: Quick look: Inside Amazon's vast distribution business]

According to the NRL:  "Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin.  The XFC pops out of the canister then unfolds its X-wing shaped airfoil and after achieving a marginal altitude, assumes horizontal flight configuration.   The XFC flew a successful several hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at a Navy base in Andros, Bahamas."

onr
The XFC test was the culmination of six year project whose overarching goal was to develop an unmanned system that could help support  mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the U.S. Navy's submarine force, the NRL stated.

The XFC comes from the Navy's SwampWorks group which develops all manner of advanced technologies.

The Navy, like other defense organizations and private institutions is hot on drones.  Earlier this year it successfully flew and landed a fighter jet-sized drone known as the X-47 onto an aircraft carrier at sea. On board launches and recovery testing is ongoing.

Other undersea research has been ongoing as well. You may recall in 2008 engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said they wanted to build an aircraft that's as capable of zipping through the sky as it is underwater. 

The agency's Submersible Aircraft research project explored the possibility of making an aircraft that can maneuver underwater with the  goal of revolutionizing the US Department of Defense's ability to, for example, bring warfighters and equipment to coastal locations or enhance rescue operations. DARPA said that the concept being evaluated was for a submersible aircraft, not a flying submarine. It is expected that the platform will spend the bulk of its time in the air and will only spend short periods of time submerged according to the agency.

According to DARPA: "The difficulty with developing such a craft come from the diametrically opposed requirements that exist for an airplane and a submarine. While the primary goal for airplane designers is to try and minimize weight, a submarine must be extremely heavy in order to submerge underwater. In addition, the flow conditions and the systems designed to control a submarine and an airplane are radically different, due to the order of magnitude difference in the densities of air and water."

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8 and on Facebook

Check out these other hot stories:

National Science Foundation IT guy gets smacked for stealing $94,493 worth of electronic goodies

Foldable, membrane-based orbital telescope could alter space vision

Lightweight Lockheed cryocooler will keep satellite innards on ice

How to shove 50 meters of optical fiber into a microchip

NASA may salvage its planet-hunter spacecraft after all

Tall police SUVs latest tactic in stopping drivers who insist on texting

It will take a (big) village to get humans near Mars by 2018

Google's Vint Cerf defines Internet of Things challenges

NASA, Boeing flaunt high-tech wing that could alter future aircraft design

US intelligence wants to radically advance facial recognition software

To comment on this article and other Network World content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Related:
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.