Feeds

Germans develop submarine-launched UAV

Above us the drones

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?