UAS & Robotics

Navy gets two more underwater mine-hunting drones

The Navy has taken delivery of the fourth and fifth autonomous underwater ship-hull inspection systems it ordered under a $15 million contract with Bluefin Robotics.

Each of the systems, ordered under the Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Hull Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Localization System (EOD HULS) program, consists of two vehicles along with support equipment. They can inspect ships’ hulls, the sea floors in harbors and other underwater infrastructure such as piers, looking for mines, improvised explosives and other objects, according to an announcement from the company.

The systems, called MK19, can operate autonomously but allow for an operator to take control remotely. They provide detailed acoustic images with 100 percent sonar coverage, Bluefin officials said.

The Navy has been working with various models of Bluefin unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs, since 2003. The core of the MK19, the Hovering Autonomous Underwater Vehicle technology, was developed under the Office of Naval Research and the Navy’s EOD program.

In addition to hunting for mines and other explosives, the UUVs can serve other purposes. Last year, the Navy lent a 20-foot-long, 1,350-pound Bluefin-21 to help search in the Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The Navy, which currently has 10 Bluefin production vehicles and two prototypes, expects to take delivery later this year of two more MK19s under the EOD HULS contract.

Defense Systems Update

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