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US Navy Launches Drone From Submerged Submarine 55

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "MarineLink reports that a fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) aircraft has been successfully launched from the submerged 'USS Providence' (SSN 719). The drone flew a several-hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to the submarine, offering a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy's submarine force. 'Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about,' says Craig A. Hughes, Acting Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research. 'This demonstration really underpins ONR's dedication and ability to address emerging fleet priorities.' The XFC UAS — eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System — was fired from the submarine's torpedo tube using a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface, where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence's Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful mission."
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US Navy Launches Drone From Submerged Submarine

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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:25PM (#45621501) Homepage Journal

    Somehow military hardware manages to be less destructive than civilian.

    • Well money is not an issue but reliability, longevity, and speed of refueling are all requirements.

    • This begs the question, is the fuel cell technology in fact less destructive than whatever would normally have been used? A typical high-end hobbyist drone today uses the very clean and recyclable LiFePO4 [] chemistry, which also has more recharge cycles than previous Li-Ion technologies. Fuel cells are often made of exotic metals in high-energy processes. Most fuel cells are hydrogen cells, and most hydrogen is cracked from natural gas in an energy-intensive process. I know that Protonex works with hydrogen f []

  • "Expendable"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmuld3r ( 1863052 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:32PM (#45621583)
    I'd be more impressed if it were reusable. What happens to the buoy and the toy plane once it's done flying?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:36PM (#45621621)

      Amazon buys them

    • before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC)

      The drone then landed at a site. It seems like they didn't throw away the drone here, the buoy could have been pulled back in (I am guessing it was tethered).

      I have other questions about the usefulness of this:
      1. What is the range of the drone? Could it fly halfway across an ocean to find a landing spot?
      2. Are these drones going to be able to do attacks? If so this could be a dangerous first strike vehicle controlled from halfway around the world, where folks have limited or no knowledge of what is

    • by HtR ( 240250 )
      I believe they tried to make it reusable, but they had some technical glitches in getting the plane to fly back into the torpedo tube.

      Well, at least I thought I was funny.
    • The point of it is to be able to launch it without giving away your location to an enemy by surfacing. Once its mission is concluded you can land it in water and pick it up once the area is secure or the threat has passed.
  • Also put seal teams 1-6 on the sub ready to go as well.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps you can list a few "wars" where this strategy worked?

      NK is just fashionable today, like "Vietnam" was back in its day.

      Honestly, lets say NK is a terrible place and all that, why not just avoid it?

      Who says you need to be the world police? How many times has the world police made a situation worse then before?

      • NK is working on getting nukes and you don't really want to that to happen.

      • Who says you need to be the world police? How many times has the world police made a situation worse then before?

        The general consensus of the free world made us the world police in our sphere of influence. The collapse of the various SSR's made our sphere of influence global. See also, the world asking the US to get involved in the first Gulf war, and the Yugoslavia breakup.

        Also, see our failure to act in Africa, and how no one else did.

        We tend to make things better more often than not. Success stories:

  • []
    Launching a drone out of a submarine (in the movie's case, to gather air samples and get video of major cities) has been done before, in movie form anyhow.

    • [] Launching a drone out of a submarine (in the movie's case, to gather air samples and get video of major cities) has been done before, in movie form anyhow.

      So if aliens contact us it's not news worthy? Or FTL is invented? Because someone already showed it in a movie?

  • It's like an episode of Star Blazers come to life.

  • by jdmuir ( 207188 )
    No worries that the Sub will be easier to find based on RF output?
    • According to the article the UAS is completely autonomous. This means the sub can simply 'listen' to what the drone broadcasts without giving away its location. The drone may indicate a sub is within listening range, but it does not give away its location.

    • spread spectrum, burst, drone broadcasts only during large portions of the flight, directional antennas working via satellite link to the drone. All ways of avoiding that problem, there's likely more too depending on the specifics. There may be missions where this isn't a concern, depends on the sophistication of the adversary I suppose
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Breaking news:
    The Beatles had this technologies on their yellow submarine back in the 60's. YAWN...

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Don't forget Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, with their flying sub.

      Oh, and UFO, with their sub-launched fighter.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        UFO's version was called SkyDiver.

        • Can't explain the utility of the mesh tunic uniforms though! Who let those women aboard?!!

          Or the purple wigs.
          • by sconeu ( 64226 )

            The purple wigs were for Moonbase. Gerry Anderson allegedly claimed they were for anti-static.

            But they did have some women in those mesh uniforms on SkyDiver!!! A 13 year old boy's dream!!!!

  • by whizbang77045 ( 1342005 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:03PM (#45621825)
    I knew the Navy's drone program was sunk.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, it turns out we are the Protoss all along. I always new that spamming carriers was the best way to win!

  • How is it recovered after a mission?

  • Johannes Gutenberg gave us the periscope, history later developing to the cleptoscope. The "Office of Naval Intelligence" has already gone way above this recently, with the launch of NROL-39 [] The drone is aka "middle management".

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky