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US Navy's Underwater Drone Looks, Swims Like a Tuna

Dec 16, 2014 03:42 PM EST
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The US Navy's new underwater drone, designed to sneakily infiltrate enemy territory and acquire information, is the perfect spy given that it looks and swims like your average tuna.

It's no wonder Navy officials have dubbed the robo-fish "Silent NEMO," after the famous Disney character. But officially called the GhostSwimmer, this five-foot, 100-pound drone is the latest addition to the Pentagon's fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs.

"It swims just like a fish does by oscillating its tail fin back and forth," Michael Rufo, director of Boston Engineering's Advanced Systems Group, which developed the UUV for the Navy, said in a statement. "The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities."

This kind of bio-mimicry, along with its ability to quickly and silently move through the water, will allow the US Navy to more safely conduct important missions, including during times of low visibility and surveillance.

Despite being designed to recreate the propulsive power of the tuna fish, GhostSwimmer looks more like a shark, complete with dorsal fin. It can operate in depths ranging from 10 inches to 300 feet, according to the Navy.

"GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success during more types of missions while keeping divers and sailors safe," Rufo added.

Not to mention that the robot's long-lasting battery enables it to operate autonomously for extended periods of time. It can also be controlled via laptop with a 500-foot tether.

The Navy put it to work, completing tests on the UUV Dec. 11 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story (JEBLC-FS) in Virginia. While GhostSwimmer is being used to gather data on tides, currents, wakes and weather conditions for now, Navy officials hope to deploy this science fiction project into hostile waters for reconnaissance missions in the future.

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