Tuesday, February 20

Underwater drones that mimic the manta ray: this is the US proposal for autonomous and long-range ocean missions

Drones by land, air … and sea. DARPA, the advanced research agency linked to the US Department of Defense, is developing an autonomous, payload-capable robot that emulates the shape of stingrays and is capable of carrying out “long-range, long-duration missions” in the oceans. The program, baptized Manta Ray, launched in 2020 and seeks to demonstrate the potential of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). After the first tests, DARPA has just awarded Northrop Grumman and Martin Defense Group contracts for the second phase.

“The Manta Ray program seeks to develop UUV that operate for long periods without the need for maintenance or human logistical support in situ ”, detailed from DARPA. In a first stage, the agency’s experts designed and tested “novel approaches” in areas such as energy management, reliability, biofouling and corrosion control – key in the ocean -, navigation and overcoming underwater obstacles ” . The goal: to prepare the drone for long-term missions, without assistance and in environments that will demand remarkable endurance.

Objective: demonstrate the potential of UUVs

By way of advance, DARPA has prepared and posted on its official YouTube account a video of just one minute showing the UUV in action, during an underwater mission carrying payloads for specialized tasks. In the recording you can see, for example, how the drone deploys and picks up a sensor which appears to transmit signals to the UUV itself.

Between the goals that DARPA has set for itself The program highlights the development of techniques for capturing and managing energy in the oceans, at relevant depths, or the design of submarine propulsion systems. Those responsible also aspire to “New Approaches” to Managing Long-Term Ocean Missions, data management and “mitigating biological contamination, corrosion and degradation of other materials for long-term missions.”

“The program seeks to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long-range, payload-capable UUVs. If successful, this new class of UUV will give command an amplification of capacity without interrupting current operations by remaining independent of the ships and manned ports once they are deployed ”, anota DARPA: “Such systems could allow traditional host vessels to greater operational flexibility while providing traditional service ports with workload relief ”.

DARPA’s might not be the only stingray-shaped UUV. As you remember The EurAsian Times, in September the Chinese media reported tests in the waters of the Asian Giant, in the Xisha Islands – by the Northwestern Polytechnic University – with a biomimetic robot in the shape of a Mobula birostris. The 470 kilogram bionic device can flap its fins and glide underwater. [Según la agencia de noticias oficial Xinhua](Mobula birostris), the robot has already been used to study the ocean environment and conduct scientific research on coral reefs.

Image | DARPA