In a first for the United States Navy, a member of its submarine fleet has successfully launched and recovered an underwater drone during an underwater mission in the Mediterranean. The USS North Dakota, an attack submarine, returned to its base in Groton, CT on July 20th after a nearly two-month mission in the Mediterranean. Navy officials declined to comment on the mission but did state that the drone was launched from a dry deck shelter attached to the top of the submarine, normally utilized for launching mini-submarines and divers. The Navy sees these drones, or unmanned undersea vehicles known as UUVs, as a cost-effective method to extend the capabilities of its submarine fleet, which slowly has been shrinking in size since the end of the Cold War.
Specifically, a submarine commanding officer and his crew can have eyes in two places at the same time. The drones can be launched in order to complete both mundane and dangerous missions. They can detect mines, map the ocean floor and conduct intelligence gathering. Illustrating the Navy’s commitment to integrating unmanned vehicles into its fleet, the military has been researching how to use the drones in anti-submarine warfare.
The drone deployed by the North Dakota was the Remus 600, developed by the Hydroid company with funding from the United States Office of Naval Research. The drone is 500 pounds and 10-feet-long that is apparently from a class that is readily available on the public market. The UUV is advertised as fully modular that runs on a lithium ion battery which can last up to 70 hours, subject to various configurations. It is further advertised as having a maximum operating depth of 656 yards, although Hydroid claims it can be configured to have an operating depth of 3,280 yards. It can be equipped with GPS devices, sonar technology and video cameras.