Australia’s school-bus sized 'smart' underwater war-drones 'will travel completely flooded'
The prototypes of the extra-large autonomous undersea vehicles (XL-AUVs) for the Royal Australian Navy will not be water-proof; rather, water will flow through them when they are delivered in three years by a U.S. defense corporation.
The school bus-sized underwater drones built by the Australian subsidiary of the defense technology firm Anduril won't have watertight hulls, The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday.
All XL-AUVs will "have a framework of aluminum covered with a lightweight skin that has gaps in it, and they will travel completely flooded," David Goodrich, Anduril's chief executive, told the newspaper.
"They'll have a common battery-powered propulsion system at the stern, a common navigation, and control system in the nose cone, and everything in between is for the payload."
Although Goodrich rejected making any predictions about payloads, he noted that the drones would probably make a variety of mine, counter-mine, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance duties easier.
"Each prototype will be iterative; we're not just building three of the same vehicle," he explained. "They'll be delivered over the three-year life of the program at a fraction of the cost of existing undersea capabilities."
Every prototype will feature a wet hull, allowing water to flow freely through the AUVs. As a result, the submersible may be produced quickly and easily because no heavy welding is needed to transform the hull into a pressure vessel large enough to house a crew of people.
"The midsection modules can be of varying lengths to meet specific requirements," said Goodrich.
"The batteries are pressure-resistant, and all the navigation and control subsystems are inside pressure vessels the size of propane gas tanks that are located in various parts of the vehicle, leaving the maximum amount of space for payloads that will be accessed via payload doors and covers."
The vehicle's payload modules will determine the XL-AUVs' range and endurance. It will have the ability to carry out operations on the ocean floor up to a depth of 6000 meters, claimed the company.
Anduril plans to employ technology from the U.S. AUV maker Dive Technologies, whose 3-tonne AUV is equipped with an architecture that scales for multi-week missions and is capable of conducting operations independently for up to 10 days.
"The XL-UAV will be integrated with Anduril's artificial intelligence-powered Lattice operating system and operate itself. Where the submarines are likely to go there's not a great deal of connectivity, so they've got to be super-smart," Goodrich stated.
"Our autonomous systems mean that you can have really sophisticated sensor processing on the vehicle so it can do things, like analyze the signature of the propulsion system, sonar reflections, and so on to identify a vessel of interest and exactly what it's doing. There are various ways that the XL-AUV can communicate through the Lattice system."
The total production system that includes the process of getting the submersible into and out of the water is still a matter of concern. However, a resolution has been found but has not yet been made public, according to the defense company.