Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The Navy's New Weapon - The Underwater Drone
What you're looking at above could end up changing naval warfare as radically as the submarine and the aircraft carrier did. It's a Slocum Glider, one of the Navy's brand new weapons - an underwater drone.
The Navy's idea was to be able to do underwater what drones have been been doing in the sky: recon stealthily for long periods of time, and gather intel. Attack crones may be only a step away.
Even more amazing, the underwater drones require no refueling, because they are designed to be powered by the ocean’s thermocline, the layers of warm water near the surface and colder water below.The glider changes its density depending on which layer its in which makes the 5-foot (1.5m)drone either rise or sink, something the Navy calls hydraulic buoyancy. Its wings use the up-and-down motion to create a forward speed of about a mile (1.6 km) an hour. At regular intervals the drone is programmed to regularly approach the surface, and an air bladder in the tail inflates to stick an antenna out of the water so it can transmit data.
The use of the drones in scoping out an enemy coastline, tracking surface ships and finding submarines looks to be invaluable in making the ocean, the coastline and the area beneath the surface an open book.
The one drawback I think will have to be worked on is the relatively slow speed....perhaps with a small fueled booster designed to be used to escape capture or destruction in an emergency,or a remote self destruct trigger.
The drones are named for Captain Joshua Slocum, famous for sailing alone around the world in a 37-foot sloop in the late 19th century.They're capable of being programmed to use a variety of sensors and as you can imagine, they're far cheaper to operate than normal fuel powered ships. There is even some research going on regarding the feasibility of launching the gliders via submarine torpedo tubes, making a single submarine an intel and espionage center that could cover a whole ocean sector.
I can almost guarantee you that we're going to hear more about these amazing devices.