Researchers from the US Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) and Boston Engineering have successfully tested the prototype of GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia.
Capable of being deployed to carry out underwater surveillance missions, the new underwater drone is the latest in a series of science-fiction-turned-reality projects developed by CRIC’s Silent NEMO project.
The new 5ft-long, 100lb drone can be controlled with a joystick or being coded to automatically swim autonomously. It features fins, tail and a realistic-looking nose, while can operate in depths as much as 300ft below the water surface.
Additionally, the tuna-sized drone is hoped for deployment to examine the ship’s hull, check waters for threats such as mines or protrusions and deliver payloads, including sonar and guidance packages.
Boston Engineering Advanced Systems Group director Michael Rufo said: "GhostSwimmer will allow the navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and sailors safe.
"It swims just like a fish does by oscillating its tail fin back and forth. The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities."
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The drone’s bio-mimicry is also aimed at offering additional security during low visibility intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
NWDC Concepts and Innovation department head captain Jim Loper said: "This project and others that we are working on at the CRIC are important because we are harnessing the brainpower and talents of junior sailors.
"We want to see projects like this replicated throughout the fleet. The fusion of the deckplate brainpower with support of the most senior leadership in the navy is going to keep us moving forward throughout the 21st century."
Image: The GhostSwimmer vehicle being tested at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy / Edward Guttierrez III.