Boeing Co.’s Echo Voyager has headed back to sea for a second round of testing, as the aerospace company looks to demonstrate the underwater drone’s more sophisticated capabilities for a U.S. Navy contract competition.
The 51-foot-long, yellow and gray autonomous undersea vehicle is being designed to glide just beneath the waves or along the ocean floor for months at a time with little to no contact with human operators. Its missions could include surveillance that would be either too mundane or dangerous for human submarine crews to tackle and reconnaissance.
Boeing has said Echo Voyager can reach a maximum depth of 11,000 feet, with a top speed of about 9 mph. The drone runs on a hybrid electric-battery/marine diesel system; its diesel generator will kick in when the battery runs low. It periodically resurfaces to snorkel depth to recharge.
The drone is guided by motion and rotation sensors, as well as sonar to avoid obstacles, Boeing has said. It can use GPS when operating near or at the surface.
These vehicles could eventually be used to deliver small payloads, such as other, smaller drones, sensors or even mines.