Drones are referred to by a number of different means, such as quadcopters, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and ROVs (remotely operated vehicles). When we think of drones we immediately think of ‘vehicles’ that fly, but drones also include vehicles which can operate underwater, though for those drones which are designed as submersibles, the term ROV is more common used.
With the ‘explosion’ in the popularity of drones, so has their capabilities been explored in wider and wider scenarios. The drones we had been used to hearing about five years ago were generally military surveillance and strike weapons, but behind the scenes, while the more commercial aspect of ‘hobby’ drones was being explored in every imaginable way, more serious research was also going on, particularly at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.
The result of this research is the introduction of a new acronym to the English language, CRACUNS, or Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System to give it its fill name. But contrary to what you may think, CDACUNS is a UAV as opposed to an ROV as it may have been designed to ‘live’ underwater, but it’s principal function is definitely of an airborne nature. A team from APL’s Force Projection Sector collaborated with fabrication experts in the Research and Exploratory Development Department to build a new type of unmanned vehicle which was capable of operating in two very different environments: air and water.
The results of the collaboration are astounding, as they have produced a drone which can be launched from a significant depth underwater, and after it has been there for quite some time. In one trial carried out in sea water, a drone was left for two months before being launched and it showed no signs of corrosion, which included the motors which were exposed to the elements. More to the point, the battery remained fully charged. According to APL’s Rich Hooks, the aerospace and mechanical engineer responsible for the novel additive manufacturing techniques used on CRACUNS, “CRACUNS successfully demonstrated a new way of thinking about the fabrication and use of unmanned systems.”
While there are doubtless many potential applications for this device, the one which immediately sprung to our minds here at Quadcopters.com was its use in submarines or, to be more precise, outside a submarine. What are we thinking about? Well for a submarine to have sight of its surroundings, it has to rise up to periscope depth, which makes it extremely vulnerable both from the point of view of detection and also attack.
On the basis a CRACUNS wouldn’t need to be retrieved after a surveillance operation, and with its discrete size making it virtually undetectable from a distance of 250 yards, it could achieve what was required of it, and then allowed to be ditched into the sea. Though submarines are renowned for a lack of space, having half a dozen CRACUNS on board would hardly take up a noticeable amount of room.
Come to think of it, CRACUNS could well make an appearance in the next James Bond movie, as it is very much the type of gadget Q would have produced.