The GhostSwimmer: US Navy’s Underwater Drone

Most people associate the term “drone” to something that flies, especially as many today seem to have taken to flying drones for fun, or for aerial photography services. Some though still harbor negative association of drones with the military’s killer drones used in battlefields. However, drones can also be for land and underwater use. A new underwater drone has been developed by the US Navy, which closely resembles a bluefin tuna.

The U.S. Navy has developed an underwater drone named GhostSwimmer that looks and swims like a bluefin tuna. Trials were completed on Dec. 11 at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia. GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and sailors safe,” said Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering Advanced Systems Group. Read more here

The new gizmo, at five feet long and nearly 100 pounds, is about the size of an albacore tuna but looks more like a shark, at least from a distance. It’s part of an experiment to explore the possibilities of using biomimetic, unmanned, underwater vehicles. The robot uses its tail for propulsion and control, like a real fish. It can operate in water as shallow as 10 inches or dive down to 300 feet. It can be controlled remotely via a 500-foot tether, or swim independently, periodically returning to the surface to communicate. Read more here

Such underwater drones can be useful not only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, when it’s not assigned to more mundane tasks like inspecting the hulls of friendly ships, as the above article reports, but also for search-and-rescue missions, such as what is ongoing in Java Sea in the search for AirAsia flight QZ8501 which crashed into the sea on Sunday.


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