An undersea drone for developers
- By Mark Pomerleau
- Jun 10, 2016
With growing investment in unmanned undersea vehicles, much of the talk has focused on enabling technologies such as underwater navigation or large platforms that combine mine countermeasure, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. One aspect of the conversation getting less attention has been development of low-cost, expendable tactical UUVs, but advances are being made there as well.
SandShark is a 15-pound autonomous tactical UUV made for developers by Bluefin Robotics, part of General Dynamics Mission Systems. It features an open source development platform, a modular design with a standardized low-cost tail and core vehicle systems, a user-defined payload bay and engineering support and training. This combination provides a flexible “reference design” that can support rapid technology development, the company said.
It can take 10 years to develop new underwater military sensors, but using SandShark as a test platform, that development time can be cut to two years, according to the spec sheet posted by the Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Applications Center. Other advantages cited were the UUV's small size that makes it easily transportable, its relative low cost and the fact that it’s a reference design made to be customized.
These tactical systems can also perform swarming missions, according to Rand Lebouvier, business development for Bluefin’s Autonomous Undersea Vehicles. Swarms would involve “large numbers of various types of vehicles that form de facto arrays that can detect targets or can be used as survey vehicles to cover large areas,” he said.
SandShark is slated to begin open water testing this summer, according to AUVAC.
Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.