The workhorse of the military's undersea drone inventory is an autonomous device 8 feet long and 12.5 inches in diameter. It's good up to depths of about 600 meters. As mine-seekers, these machines have proven their stripes.
But the next generation is going to be something else entirely: more than 25 feet long, 48 inches in diameter and able to travel autonomously for hundreds of miles.
"We would like to build a vehicle that could go 30 to 60 days in mission endurance, with power to go 1,000 miles," said Frank Herr, head of ocean battle sensing at the Office of Naval Research. "It will have the autonomy to be able to find its way to do a naval mission without reporting home constantly."
An industry day last fall for the Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype, or LDUUV INP, drew more than 265 representatives from 138 large and small companies, the Navy reported.