Manta Ray, DARPA’s giant underwater drone takes to the sea

Manta Ray, DARPA’s giant underwater drone takes to the sea
Manta Ray, DARPA’s giant underwater drone takes to the sea

I told you about the drone last April Manta Ray, the result of a collaboration between DARPA and Northrop Grumman. This giant autonomous underwater drone promises to revolutionize ocean exploration and monitoring (I am not unaware of military uses). Now, some newly released videos allow us to take a closer look at this technology in action, discovering the secrets of its extraordinary efficiency and autonomy.

Manta Ray represents a significant step forward in underwater drone technology. Its ability to operate autonomously for long missions in potentially dangerous environments is critical to keeping humans out of harm’s way.

Joe DeaneManta Ray program manager at Northrop Grumman.

Manta Ray’s first dive

One of the videos released by Northrop Grumman takes us aboard Manta Ray during its first dive. A spectacular 360° view in 4K shows us up close every detail of the drone as it moves nimbly underwater.

Looking at it, one gets the impression that the underwater drone is meeting all expectations, and that it is able to exploit all the potential “promised” in the initial stages of its presentation. But in the end what makes it special and different from the others?

An underwater drone that “glides” underwater

But what makes Manta Ray so special? One of its strong points is the innovative propulsion system, which allows it to cover large distances with minimal energy expenditure. As? Transforming the underwater drone into a sort of “glider” that flies through water instead of air.

When it has to go up or down in depth, it modifies its buoyancy by pumping sea water to change its weight. The videos also show the presence of two four-bladed propellers placed on the edge of the wings, which provide additional thrust when necessary.

He does it alone, strong and silent

Another crucial factor: autonomy. Manta Ray can carry out long-duration missions without the need for human intervention. Yes, you read that right: This underwater drone is capable of operating completely autonomously, making decisions and adapting to changing conditions without the need for constant supervision.

And versatility? This sea monster navigates easily underwater, but when necessary knows how to ‘perch’ on the seabed to save energy.

The future of underwater exploration (and war, I fear)

With Manta Ray, DARPA and Northrop Grumman have laid the foundations for a new generation of underwater drone, capable of going beyond current limits.

“This is just the beginning,” Deane enthuses. “Manta Ray paves the way for increasingly ambitious missions, from scientific research to environmental monitoring, from surveillance to the laying of submarine cables. The possibilities are virtually limitless.”

Curiously, he names practically all the possibilities, except one. How come?

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