NEWPORT, R.I., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- An autonomous underwater vehicle from General Dynamics has successfully launched mini-drones as part of a U.S. Navy-sponsored capability exercise.
In several demonstrations, the Bluefin SandShark mini-AUVs launched by the heavy-weight Bluefin-21 surfaced and then transferred data and target imagery they had received from the larger vessel to a Blackwing unmanned aerial vehicle.
That UAV then relayed the information back to a submarine combat control system ashore for decision-making authority and subsequent command of Bluefin SandShark M-AUVs.
"Our successful ANTX demonstrations showed that unmanned vehicles can deliver capabilities across the undersea and air operating domains," said Tracy Howard, a senior manager for Autonomous Undersea Vehicles for General Dynamics Mission Systems.
"This system of systems approach leverages Bluefin-21's larger payload delivery, longer endurance and superior navigation capabilities to deliver smaller payloads such as autonomous underwater vehicles or unmanned aerial vehicles and sensors, providing the Navy with additional mission capabilities," Howard said.
The Bluefin-21 AUV is modular and designed with the flexibility to carry and launch a variety of AUVs in configurations that include M-AUVs, larger AUVs, and unmanned aerial vehicles. It can be reconfigured for multiple missions with varying payloads including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors and communications nodes to expand maritime network communications.
The Bluefin SandShark M-AUV weighs about 15 pounds without sensors. Its potential uses include intelligence collection, surveillance and reconnaissance, mine counter-measures, sea-floor mapping and imaging.