The U.S. Navy’s “GhostSwimmer” drone made its testing debut last week at Fort Story, Virginia.
If one were to create an aquatic drone, of course it would be modeled after a shark, right? The U.S. Navy thinks so, but it also thinks crossing a shark with a tuna makes for the best drone design. The result, the new “GhostSwimmer,” is the latest in military drone creation. Measuring in at five feet long and weighing 100 pounds, the “silent” drone represents the first working prototype in the Navy’s “Silent Nemo” program.
According to a Navy press statement, the drone is much quieter than anything relying on traditional propulsion via rotating propellers. This is because the GhostSwimmer drone literally swims like a fish. It moves through the water because of body movements and the array of fins with which it is fitted. The result is a device that is much more difficult to detect by sonar and is much more maneuverable.
“The idea is to take millions of years of evolution,” said project manager Marine Corps Captain Jerry Lademan. “This fish has perfected itself by swimming around the water for millennia, so what we are trying to do with this project, [through] the idea of biomimicry, is to reverse engineer what nature has already done to optimize design for us.”
Developers intend to apply the drone in furtive missions of searching for sea mines, inspecting ship hulls, and conducting surveillance in areas not accessible by larger craft. The drone can operate in as little as 10 inches of water and dive to depths of up to 300 feet. It is equipped with a large battery for extended mission service. The development took several months and cost $1 million, and the drones are expected to be deployed next year.
Testing of the drone took place last week at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia, and a video of the device is available online.