DARPA’s Manta Ray drone for underwater navy operations aces preliminary checks

In a nutshell: DARPA’s Manta Ray program is designed to develop a brand new technology of autonomous drones able to working underwater. The drone has lastly been constructed after roughly 4 years, and Northrop Grumman not too long ago examined the prototype off the coast of Southern California.

Under the Manta Ray program, US analysis company DARPA aimed to develop a totally new class of uncrewed underwater automobiles (UUVs), drawing inspiration from the huge “winged” fish of the identical title. Northrop Grumman, one in all three contractors chosen by DARPA, has now reworked the UUV idea into actuality and not too long ago examined its main capabilities.

Initially, Northrop Grumman confronted competitors from Martin Defense Group and Metron, however the latter withdrew from the undertaking in 2021. According to the official Manta Ray program web site, the UUV drone has been designed to undertake long-duration, long-range missions in oceanic environments inaccessible to people.

The accomplished Manta Ray drone encompasses all of the important options outlined in DARPA’s unique imaginative and prescient, together with the power to hold payloads for varied missions. Manta Ray operates autonomously with out human intervention or on-site logistics and might anchor itself to the seafloor earlier than coming into an energy-saving, low-power working mode.

The Manta Ray drone is modular and might be shipped in 5 completely different “customary” containers for meeting anyplace on the earth. After a number of years of labor on the undertaking, Northrop Grumman lastly assembled the Manta Ray prototype prior to now few months. Now, the navy contractor has introduced that the UUV has handed its first in-water check.

The prototype was submerged in February and March 2024, with particular checks carried out to evaluate its at-sea hydrodynamic efficiency. Northrop Grumman engineers operated the UUV utilizing all supported modes of propulsion and steering, together with buoyancy, propellers, and management surfaces. The check was deemed profitable.

The completion of the full-scale Manta Ray testing part confirms that the brand new underwater car is nearly prepared for real-world navy operations, said Kyle Woerner, the DARPA program supervisor for Manta Ray. The US Department of Defense, aiming to realize “strategic shock” in underwater circumstances, will now search engagement with the US Navy for a second testing part.

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