Drone launched from unmanned submersible at US Navy technology demo

U.S. Navy’s annual technology exercise (ANTX) saw an autonomous underwater vehicle launch an unmanned aerial vehicle, all while being commanded by an unmanned surface vehicle.

Defense technology company Lockheed Martin demonstrated the integration capabilities of its products by having the Marlin MK2 AUV launch the small UAV Vector Hawk.

In addition to Marlin and Vector Hawk, the Submaran, an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero, provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.

During the event which took place in August, the Submaran relayed instructions to Marlin from a ground control station via underwater acoustic communications. Following these instructions, the Marlin launched the Vector Hawk using a specially-designed canister from the surface of the Narragansett Bay.

“This effort marks a milestone in showing that an unmanned aircraft, surface vessel and undersea vehicle can communicate and complete a mission cooperatively and completely autonomously,” said Kevin Schlosser, chief architect, unmanned systems technology, Lockheed Martin.

Following launch, Vector Hawk successfully assumed a mission flight track. As Lockheed Martin explains, all three autonomous vehicles—Marlin, Submaran and Vector Hawk—communicated operational status to the ground control station to maintain situational awareness and provide a means to command and control all assets.

According to the company, Vector Hawk is designed for canister or hand-launch and can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers.

Marlin MK2 is a battery powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250 pound payload capacity, 18-24 hour endurance, depth rating of 1000 feet and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds.