Feeds

Germans develop submarine-launched UAV

Above us the drones

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

You have to do something special these days to make your flying robot stand out from the swarm - but remorselessly efficient German designers have done just that. They plan to offer small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) which can be launched and controlled from a submerged submarine.

The UAV in question is called VOLANS (coVert OpticaL Airborne reconnaissance Naval adapted System), and is based on the existing German Aladin drone, a hand-launched job which has already seen service in Afghanistan. "At least three" small folding VOLANS machines can be packed in a pressure-tight tank along with a folding catapult launcher, and the whole thing is mounted on a telescoping submarine mast which works in the same way as a periscope. The multi-purpose mast system, which can alternatively be fitted with a remote-operated heavy machine gun or electronics packages, is called "Triple M".

In order to launch a VOLANS, the sub comes to periscope depth, pops up the Triple M mast above the surface, and fires off an aircraft. The launcher mast can then seal up and slip back below the waves, though if the submarine is to receive any data from the UAV (or change its pre-programmed flight plan) it needs to put up an antenna. Video recorded aboard the drone can be downloaded to the sub later at a prearranged time, however, so there's no need to stay at periscope depth with comms mast up throughout the flight.

If the VOLANS' performance is comparable to the ordinary Aladin, it will be able to stay airborne for up to an hour before its battery runs flat. The only way for the sub to recover drones would be to surface, so realistically the system will mostly be for one-shot use. The drones have a speed of "45 to 90" km/hour, so they could range quite far from their mother ship, though they will only be able to communicate with it from within line of sight - 30km or so.

This sort of thing could be quite handy for submarines, whose great Achilles heel is their lack of sensor range when submerged. Normally a submarine - especially a non-nuclear one, slowed to a crawl when underwater - finds it extremely difficult to find or intercept a target at sea while remaining submerged, unless it is receiving information from elsewhere. Drone reconnaissance could change all that, going some way perhaps towards making conventional subs the terrible threat that former Cold War subhunter navies like to paint them as.

Even if VOLANS doesn't get picked up on radar, however, its C-band video download transmission will localise its mother sub to within a fairly small area of sea. Modern sub-hunting helicopters are said to be able to sweep such areas almost at once* using their new dipping sonars, so a sub skipper launching a VOLANS when up against first-division opposition would probably be signing his own death warrant.

The system's makers say they see it more as a thing for everyday modern missions rather than full-scale maritime combat against big navies. They reckon it might be useful, for instance, to give a special-forces team deploying by submarine a look at their landing area or target before disembarkation.

There's more info on the Triple M from manufacturer Gabler here, and some nifty photos from a recent Berlin trade fair here. ®

* The Royal Navy claims that it would need only two of its Merlin HM1s to monitor the whole English Channel.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.