The US Navy’s Office of Naval Research in December announced that it was awarding several research contracts (unnamed) to develop a “Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle” (LDUUV). These are large underwater drones, which could be used for monitoring, intelligence, or attacks against enemy targets. The project was the dream of now-retired Admiral Gary Roughead, who saw the drones as a terrific force multiplier for submarines.
The Navy sought research proposals back in July asking for proposals that would allow the water drone to remain at sea for 70 days or longer and with a capability to operate as deep as 800 feet. The craft will need to be able to conduct missions near shore, in the open sea, or near merchant shipping lanes, and it can navigate around fishing boats and nets. They are hoping for a vessel with a fiberglass hull to defeat sonar detection.
The biggest challenge, say Navy engineers, will be power generation and storage. They’re hoping to have the first one built by 2014 and to have them operational and performing missions by 2017.