By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
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Photo Credit: Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)
December 8, 2013
Speaking of submarines, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) recently demonstrated their ability to launch a fully-autonomous, all-electric, fuel cell-powered surveillance UAS/UAV (Unmanned Aerial System/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)/drone aircraft called the XFC UAS (eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System) from a submerged submarine, specfically a Los Angeles-class attack sub called the USS Providence ((SSN 719). Sporting a folding-wing design, the XFC UAS is launched from Sea Robin launch vehicle, which, in turn, is launched from a Tomahawk cruise missile launch cannister inside a torpedo tube.
The XFC UAS was designed and developed by the Chemistry and Tactical Electronic Warfare Divisions at NRL for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) in order to significantly increase a submarine's situational awareness and battlespace intelligence. It's capable of operating for 6+ hours at low altitude and low cost. The drone's launch footprint, being all-electric, is minimal.
Battery-powered, all-electric UAS/UAV's like the XFC UAS are "inherently stealthy" because of their relative noiseless operation and low thermal signature. They're also very easy to operate and maintain. The downside of small, all-electric drones like the XFC UAS is that they are small, low power and low speed, which translates to a poor payload capacity and limited endurance compared their internal-combustion-powered counterparts.
Still, the XFC UAS can carry an EO/IR (Electro-Optica InfraRed) payload for a long enough period to be combat-effective. Loiter speed is 30 knots, dash speed is 52 knots.
Now, if they can just integrate a remote-detonated/impact-detonated explosive charge into it, a la the MBDA TiGER (Tactical Grenade Extended Range) SUAS/SUAV Kamikaze drone.
If you want to see it in person, you can check it out at booth 256 at the 2009 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) meeting in Washington, DC from August 10 – 13.
Organization Contact Info:
Prioria Robotics Maveric Flexible-Wing Mini-UAS (Mini-Unmanned Aircraft System) at SOFIC 2011: Manpackable, Throwable SUAV (Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) with Flexible/Bendable Wing! (Photos and Video!)
BCB/AAI SQ-4 RECON Nano Quad-Rotor MAV/UAS/UAV (NUAS/NUAV) Bat-Like Unmanned Spy-Copter Stealth Micro Air Vehicle for “Over the Hill” Observation and Reconnaissance: Special Operations Forces (SOF) Get a New (Small) Backpackable/Manpackable Quadcopter VTOL Eye in the Sky…Maybe (SOFIC 2012 Video!)
MBDA TiGER (Tactical Grenade Extended Range) Small UAS/UAV (SUAS/SUAV)/Mini-Flying Bomb/”Kamikaze Drone” for Tactical Reconnaissance and Precision-Kill Missions is Low-Observable, Seriously Lethal: Kitty’s got a temper!
AeroVironment (AV) Switchblade Backpackable/Manpackable “Kamikaze Drone” SUAV/Mini-UAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/Mini-Unmanned Aircraft System) “Over-the-Ridge” Precision-Kill Weapon: Tactical Reconnaissance Meets Low-Order-Detonation Lethality