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Stealthy Drone Can Hide Underwater For Months, Then Float To Surface To Take-Off (digitaltrends.com) 67

An anonymous reader writes from an article on DigitalTrends: After months of analysis and experimentation, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab announced the successful development of a reliable sea-to-air UAV. Dubbed the Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System -- or CRACUNS for short -- Johns Hopkins' drone has the ability to reside for months underwater without deteriorating or decaying. Once given the signal, the CRACUNS would then rise to the water's surface and begin flight, capable of undertaking a variety of missions.
In order for the drone to accomplish this, the team had to develop a body that contained no structural metal parts or machined surfaces. The composite-body had to not only be extremely lightweight, but able to be submerged in water and hold up to constant water pressure. CRACUNS project manager Jason Stipes said in a published press release, "Engineers at APL have long worked on both Navy submarine systems and autonomous UAVs. In response to evolving sponsor challenges, we were inspired to develop a vehicle that could operate both underwater and in the air."
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Stealthy Drone Can Hide Underwater For Months, Then Float To Surface To Take-Off

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  • It really sounds like a plot element from a James Bond movie.

    • There was a 70's Gerry and Sylvia Anderson ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ) TV series called "UFO" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ). It featured a jet rocket plane on the tip of a submarine, which was called "Skydiver" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ). Oh, and didn't "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" have a "Flying Sub"? But wait, there's still more . . . now that I think about it, the Japanese actually built a submarine/aircraft carrier combo menu plate. Their idea was to use this to bom

      • Saw that TV series on yputube half a year ago, it is very retro, very cool!

        One problem: the planes could take off . . . but not land.
        Of course they could land, they where water planes :D like most planes on ships at that time, besides carriers. Basically every big ship, cruiser or BS had one or two planes on board.

      • But wait, there's still more . . . now that I think about it, the Japanese actually built a submarine/aircraft carrier combo menu plate.

        There was a WW2 sub - I forget if it was German or British - which incorporated a hanger for a biplane-floatplane and steam catapult into the forward end of the conning tower and main deck. ISTR that it could be craned from the water back onto the catapult and stowed into the hanger, which could then be sealed.

        Actually, the idea seems to have been recurrent and popular. ht [wikipedia.org]

  • How long did it take them to come up with the acronym? Some fan of "Clash of the Titans" pretty clearly wanted to yell "Unleash the CRACUNS!"

  • TMA (Score:5, Funny)

    by esampson ( 223745 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @05:22PM (#51733513) Homepage

    CRACUNS, brought to you by the Department of Improbable but Possible Word and Acronym Development Services.

  • by spauldo ( 118058 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @05:26PM (#51733539)

    Oh yeah, here [questionablecontent.net].

  • I've watched the videos and the motors seem submerged under water. So they were able to develop non-metalic motors?

    • by gurnec ( 1011007 )

      I've watched the videos

      Yes, but did you read the article? ;-)

      For the motors that are exposed to salt water, APL applied commercially available protective coatings. The team tested the performance of the motors by submerging them in salt water. Two months later, they showed no sign of corrosion and continued to operate while submerged.

  • Unless this can park at a 500m depth, it will accumulate enough biomass to disable it in a matter of days. Also, looking at the shape of if, a simple machined aluminum hull would produce a cheaper, lighter, more durable hull, than any currently existing additive manufacturing technologies.
  • These guys probably haven't even tried what they claim they can do, drop it in the actual sea for months then call it back, otherwise they would know that corrosion is only half the problem. Unless the entire thing is sprayed in a toxic substance it will have all types of things growing on it after a month or two.

    An enclosing pod that can alter it's buoyancy without external parts or ports would have made a lot more sense, then the drone can just launch out of the pod when it reaches the surface. The pod
    • Your pod idea is interesting, but the likelihood that in 30 minutes, two nerds on /. thought of the bio-accumulation hazard,while the developers did not, is increasingly small.
      • by reemul ( 1554 )

        If they've come up with an economically viable, environmentally friendly way to keep barnacles off for extended periods of time, that's a much bigger discovery than their little drone. Boat manufacturers would be pounding on their door and waving bags full of cash. So I'm guessing they're just hoping it won't be a problem and moving on rather than something they've seriously considered and have miraculously overcome.

        • How often do you think boats in cold, northern waters (think greatly increased marinelife activity vs the tropics) need to be removed and have their hulls scraped and repainted?
          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I wet slip my fiberglass boat in Minnesota April through September. I get a very slight film but no beard. My marina acid washes it in the fall and it looks new afterwards.

            Everything I've read about oceangoing hulls suggests much more labor is necessary. Biocide bottom paint and periodic scraping, acid washing and repainting with bottom paint every couple of years.

            I wish I had a lift, but it's entirely cosmetic for me in relatively cold lake water.

          • Standard operating procedure is yearly.

            Who often do you, someone who clearly doesn't own a boat, think it is?

            Yes, they put the boats in dry dock once a year to scrape and repaint.

      • Your pod idea is interesting, but the likelihood that in 30 minutes, two nerds on /. thought of the bio-accumulation hazard,while the developers did not, is increasingly small.

        Not really. most folks think in a how it will work mode, while only a few thing of reasons why it my not. I used to piss of people all the time in meetings by pointing out simple show stoppers while they were all running with pie in the sky awesomeness of the concept.

      • by Sneftel ( 15416 )

        You would be astounded, simply astounded, at what sorts of things a team of academics can rationalize away as something which, while not yet addressed, don't sound like difficult problems, and which aren't relevant to the publication at hand. That's particularly true when those things are a little outside the original team's wheelhouse, like a team of robotics engineers and physicists faced with the prospect of barnacles.

        • by sudon't ( 580652 )

          You know, I'm still trying to figure out exactly why you might want something to sit on the bottom of the ocean for months, then suddenly pop up and fly around. Is it doing something down there? Why not just start with the flying bit? I mean, it has to be brought there anyway. What am I missing?

          • Oh if your flying floating fishy thing was lurking at the bottom of say... the Taiwan Straight or the South China Sea, waiting, just waiting; and had a choice between making an arial or subsurface - let"s just call it activity - that might be VERY interesting to the US Navy.

  • Barnacles? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by niftymitch ( 1625721 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @06:15PM (#51733813)

    If it was to sleep silently on the seafloor how does it protect itself
    from colonizing creatures, sediment and detritus?

    Sort of interesting...

  • How do you tell it to take off from all the way on the bottom of the sea? Carrier fish?

    • Theoretically, if you were willing to sink a very long, disposable antenna cable along with the drone, you could activate it by very-long-wave radio. But I doubt the durability in actual sea-water, with living creatures all around, will render the "long term sitting duck"-scenario realistic, anyway. So a "timed" or "short range via audio wave" trigger might be sufficient for realistic scenarios (like false-flag bombings of countries you just don't like).
      • Its pretty obvious to me that this is intended to be a littoral tech (i.e. no one's going to be sinking these in the Marianas Trench); as such, it might not be too challenging for each of these to deploy a wire antenna with a tiny float on the end...
  • I hope they have some good anti fouling crap smeared all over it. In real life anything sitting in the sea for months becomes a Barnacle magnet. Basiclly it would look like one of the creatures in a recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
    • That doesn't sound too threatening-looking; my ex's vagina on the other hand...
      • That doesn't sound too threatening-looking; my ex's vagina on the other hand...

        Which leads to the inevitable question as to whether you were brave, crazy or both to go there.

  • Hides out of sight and then pops out - sounds perfect.
  • Instead of trying to find very specific materials to deal with the salt water ...

    Why didn't you just put the device in an water tight container, nice and dry ... that sits on the bottom until signaled, at which point it rises to the surface, opens its lid, and out flies the dry drone.

    Then you don't have to deal with all the other shit thats going to fuck with your drone and build up on it if its under water for months.

    The water itself is the least of your concerns. Over a 3 month period, the salt corrosion

  • There are, and have been for a long time, anti-ship mines which lie quietly at the bottom of the sea until a signal (usually sonic, which is easier to propogate than E-M under water) tells the container to open, and up pops the mine. The only difference here is that the popping-up part reaches the surface and goes airborne. Well, that and they appear not to have wanted to bother encasing the payload in a long-term 'survival' case.

  • This drone would also need to be able to keep barnacles, oysters, starfish, plant growth and drifting seaweed off of its surfaces in order to have any ability to fly well. Corrosion is just one issue to be overcome.
  • Will that drone be used to rescue people sunken under water?
  • Hmmm, if tube launched so they could be quietly deployed; great tactical advantage there.

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