The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has successfully launched experimental fuel cell unmanned aerial system (XFC UAS) from a US Navy’s submerged Los Angeles-class submarine, USS Providence (SSN 719).
During the testing, the Sea Robin launch vehicle successfully launched the NRL-developed all-electric, fuel cell-powered UAS from the torpedo tube of the submerged submarine.
The XFC vertically launched from Sea Robin vehicle, upon command of the Providence commanding officer, and conducted the mission over several hours, demonstrating live video capabilities to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk, prior to landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.
ONR Innovation acting director, Craig Hughes, said the SwampWorks programme aims to develop disruptive technologies and quickly providing them to sailors.
"This demonstration really underpins ONR’s dedication and ability to address emerging fleet priorities," Hughes said.
Funded by SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO), from concept to fleet demonstration took less than six years to produce results at significant cost savings when compared to traditional programmes.
NRL programme developer and manager Dr. Warren Schultz said the six-year effort represents the best navy laboratory and industry collaboration to develop a technology that meets the needs of the special operations community.
"The creativity and resourcefulness brought to this project by a unique team of scientists and engineers represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV propulsion and launch systems," Schultz said.
The demonstration of submerged launch of a remotely deployed UAS paves the way for providing the US Navy’s submarine force with mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
Image: The NRL XFC unmanned aircraft launched from a Sea Robin launch vehicle. Photo: courtesy of NAVSEA-AUTEC.