The Royal Navy (RN) set forth a challenge to young engineers through a “visoneering” workshop. The goal was simple—develop futuristic submarine concepts. These designs look well beyond 2050 “to mark the 100th anniversary of the launch of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine,” according to UKNEST.
Water dominates the Earth’s surface, measuring to about 70 percent. This resource is predicted, in 50+ years’ time, to sustain an increase in worldwide competition to navigate, live, and work with or under the sea.
Here are four submarine designs that might give us a glimpse of what’s next on the nautical horizon.
1. The Nautilus 100 Mothership
To act as a central command and control hub, a main vessel was needed. The team of engineers came up with a mothership sporting a whale shark mouth and manta ray body. This design, the students thought, would ramp up speed and stealth.
The hull would be 3D printed, combining light but strong materials, such as acrylic and robust alloys. Graphene “scales” would form an anechoic coating. These scales would be held together by piezoelectric material to enable real-time adjustments and dynamic controls.
A crew of about 20 personnel can choose between two propulsion systems—one for stealth cruising at 30 knots, and the other for short bursts at high speeds up to 150 knots. Hybrid algae-electric propulsion would power cruise mode, while high-speed scenarios “would be powered for short bursts by a Casimir1 force battery using zero-point energy to produce enormous power.”
2. The Eel Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV)
The mothership would launch UUVs shaped like eels, which act as primary sensors and secondary weapon carriers. These machines would travel in complete silence without the need of human assistance. The eel UUV can propel hundreds of miles by taking advantage of sine wave propulsion. This will shield them from an enemy’s view, disguised to sensors as a marine creature.
The primary purpose for this unmanned vehicle would be to deploy sensor pods to form a self-meshing network with secure command and control (C2) applications. Each pod will use blue-green laser energy for communication.
“In addition to C2, these multi-purpose sensors would listen for residual sound energy or electro-magnetic disturbances, fusing vast amounts of data using AI in order to provide battle-winning automated (man out of the loop) assessment and decision making for defensive and offensive operations,” according to UKNEST.
3. Dissolve On Demand Micro UUVs
Each sensor pod would have a series of micro drones. They would be made from cold saltwater-soluble polymers, released in blooms, and relay data to themselves and the eel-like UUV.
According to UKNEST, “The pods could produce a constant supply of sensors / drone swarms via 3D printing through gathering biological material from the ocean and using this material to build new sensors.”
Additionally, the micro UUVs could help escort foreign vessels to safety. They would tag along during transit until the target reached its destination. These little guys also can form a defensive screen around British assets, shielding valuable resources from adversaries.
To make a quick getaway, the micro drones would be engineered to dissolve at a pre-calculated time period.
4. The Flying Fish Swarm Drones
Goodbye traditional torpedoes, hello flying fish drones. This adaptable weapon would be used against land targets, submarines, and ships carrying a variety of modular payload including electromagnetic pulses (EMP), individual warheads, and shockwave emitters.
“Powered by microturbines in the air, their intake and exhaust vents would open and then close as they dive back into the water to be then powered by plasma batteries,” according to UKNEST.
The wings can either propel the vehicle close to the surface or act as fins for underwater swims. These two regions make it difficult for sensors to detect the flying fish swarm drones, but if radar does pinpoint its location—there’s a plan. The drone can quickly dive into water or emerge back to the surface in order to escape advanced radar and underwater sonar.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense