Boeing is teaming up with America's largest military shipbuilder to work on underwater drones for the U.S Navy. The alliance is aimed at creating drone submarines.
Boeing was already at work on the Echo Voyager, a full autonomous underwater vehicle designed for repeated use. Measuring 51 feet long, the vehicle is built to operate at sea for months at a time with a hybrid rechargeable power system. Adding Huntington Ingalls Industries to the project will presumably add additional marine expertise. Unlike other drone systems, Boeing wants the Voyager to not need any surface ships or crew standing by.
"This partnership provides the Navy a cost-effective, low-risk path to meet the emergent needs that prompted the Navy's Advanced Undersea Prototyping program," Darryl Davis, the president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement. "We are combining Boeing's preeminent [unmanned underwater vehicle] maritime engineering team with our nation's leading shipbuilder and Navy technical services company to get operational vehicles to the Navy years ahead of the standard acquisition process."
A recent trio of studies looking at the future of the Navy paid more attention to aircraft carriers than drones. While the Army and the Air Force have actively taken to using drones in combat, the Navy has used drones in less prominent roles, recently testing the technology out for harbor defense. Late last year, when the Chinese government captured a small naval drone, then-President-elect Trump publicly stated that they could "Keep it!" But the seas, they are a-changing.
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