Conflict & Justice

Drone launch from submarine engineered by US Navy


NRL’s XFC Sea Robin demonstration at the Atlantic Undersea Test & Evaluation Center August 2013.



The US Navy has launched an unmanned aerial system (drone) from a submarine, the first time such an underwater deployment has been successful.

How does it work? According to a press release from the US Naval Research laboratory, the system was launched from the USS Providence fast attack submarine's torpedo tube.

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The UAS or drone was packaged inside of a Sea Robin launch system, which rose to the surface of the water — allowing the flying vehicle to pop into the air and fly off.

The drone, which is powered by electronic fuel cells, is able to fly for up to six hours, while live-streaming video of its surroundings to its Navy masters. 

"This six-year effort represents the best in collaboration of a Navy laboratory and industry to produce a technology that meets the needs of the special operations community," said Dr. Warren Schultz, program developer and manager at NRL in the release. "The creativity and resourcefulness brought to this project by a unique team of scientists and engineers represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV propulsion and launch systems." 

The project reputedly cost $15 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.