Something lurks beneath the murky water, but what exactly is it?
That might sound like the opening lines to a Spielberg movie trailer, but in fact, it’s not a 25-foot mutated Great White shark. It is Boeing’s Echo Voyager. A unmanned undersea vehicle that is the third in the company’s “Echo” line behind the 18-foot Echo Ranger and the 32-foot Echo Seeker.
The Echo Voyager, which at 51-feet is the biggest Echo yet, was announced in early March and will begin sea trials off the coast of California this summer.
It’s capable of operating underwater for months at a time and can be launched and recovered without the expensive support ships. The key is the hybrid rechargeable power system and modular payload bay. Right now, it’s designed to collect data and then rise to the surface and transmit that information in a real-time environment. The real cost-saver is that it’s truly an unmanned venture. While current systems might need a surface ship for the day-to-day, Echo Voyager is fine on its own. Even Boeing’s other Echo offerings can only operate on their own for two to three days before they need a surface ship. Boeing considers those systems stepping stones the Echo Voyager.
This obviously isn’t Boeings first foray into unmanned deep sea systems, but they’ve actually been working in the space for about 50 years, but the company is very much focused on future applications.
In the video above, a Boeing rep talks about how during an oil spill, if the baseline information had been taken beforehand, it would be much easier to do surveys after the event and determine if the environment has recovered. The Voyager would do all the work and collect all the data, versus today’s technique of sending a surface ship and lowering probes that need to be monitored.
Though it’s not designed specifically for the military, it’s fairly easy to make that leap, particularly given that it can carry a variety of payloads. The idea is that the military would benefit from the autonomous aspect when doing any sort of reconnaissance/information warfare, critical information protection, anti-submarine warfare search and barrier, submarine decoy, and mine countermeasures.
The Echo Voyager is operating at the bottom of the ocean, so chances are you’ll never see it, but it does make you think “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense