Deep Underwater Drones for Search and Rescue

The non-military application of drones is growing over a wide range, and among the list of how drones can be used is in the field of disaster relief.

The continuing  mystery surrounding Malaysian Flight 370 has brought to the limelight the great potential for the use of deep underwater drones in search and rescue operations.

This was expressed succinctly in a recent post  by Fortuna’s Corner in which it was written that the case of missing Flight 370 makes a strong pitch for the search and rescue/first responder community, U.S. Coast Guard, etc. to make a similar push in this area. Instead of risking so many additional lives in such an enormous task, it would be a force multiplier, if we were able to “flood” the potential crash zones with underwater drones — including very deep water drones — which could look continuously, over an extended period of time for possible wreckage.

In fact, it was reported by Reuters  the other day that the United States was sending  an undersea Navy drone capable of exploring waters nearly 15,000 feet deep to potentially help search for any sunken wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The Bluefin drone is just over 17 feet (5 meters) long and weighs 1,764 pounds (800 kg), according to a Navy factsheet. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said it can operate for more than a day at slower speeds.

The same news report also quoted Kirby as saying, “”In order for this technology to be useful, you have to have an identified area on the sea bottom that you want to go take a look at.”

It implies that the technology still have much room for developing, as is stated in the above-mentioned post, the current state of underwater drone technology is probably not close to being able to be a game-changer” in search and rescue for such cases as Malaysian Flight 370. But, clearly as this particular sector matures, it is clear that underwater drones of the future could scour the ocean floor for downed aircraft, over-turned vessels, sunken treasure and exploration of the deep sea such as the Marianas Trench. Read more here

In a related news, it is reported that a fleet of 16 underwater drones will travel more than 60,000 miles as part of a two-year quest to map the world’s oceans. The gliders, part of a Rutgers University research project, will collect data on ocean currents, temperatures, and salinity. “Part of our goal with this mission is to increase global ocean literacy,” Scott Glenn, co-leader of the mission told the Telegraph.

Increased knowledge of the world’s oceans will surely aid in the advancement of the underwater drone technology, thus enhancing the capabilities of future deep underwater drones in search and rescue missions.

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