The Navy is currently working on a new version of a spy drone, and while traditional drones bring up images of flying robots, this one looks exactly like a Bluefin tuna fish, Military.com reports.
Capable of diving 300 feet below the water’s surface, the drone, which is five feet long and weighs 100 pounds, was developed under the Silent NEMO program. Other underwater drones are currently in development, as well. Most remarkable about this particular drone, called GhostSwimmer, is that it actually moves through the water by a tail which mimics the movements of a regular fish. The GhostSwimmer is more energy-efficient than other underwater drones precisely because of its design. The point of copying sea life is so drones can carry out their missions while remaining undetected.
“This is an attempt to take thousands of years of evolution—what has been perfected since the dawn of time—and try to incorporate that into a mechanical device,” said project lead Jerry Lademan, who worked on the unmanned drone at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
The most recent round of tests finished on December 11, but many more will be needed to see the project to completion.
“We want to see projects like this replicated throughout the fleet,” said Capt. Jim Loper, the department head for Concepts and Innovation at the Navy Warfare Development Command. “The fusion of the deckplate brainpower with support of the most senior leadership in the Navy is going to keep us moving forward throughout the 21st century.”
Over 12 countries are working on similar underwater drones for all sorts of different purposes, including military application, and the Navy for years has recognized the remarkable energy-efficiency provided by drones which look like jellyfish, manta rays, and other sea life. Yet the Navy is still pouring money into old designs. This year alone, the Navy spent $200 million dollars to further develop the Slocum Glider, which follows a torpedo design.
Operators can control the GhostSwimmer via laptop, and have been repeatedly deploying the device to gather data about tide and weather conditions, in order to calibrate the movements of the drone. In the future, drones may be able to operate on a self-guided basis, using machine-learning to pick up cues from their surroundings to navigate dark spaces.
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