The drones are coming and not from the sky this time. The US Navy has considerable air power on its own and has been researching in the field for some time. It already has various drones that can be launched from the aircraft carriers but now it has just announced the development of water-borne flying drones that can be launched from submarines and other sub-surface vessels. Now this seems straight from the movies!
The Blackwing drone as it is being called, is being kept aboard the submarines and other submersibles inside a canister. They are supposedly vital for the future of submarine warfare according to the Department of the Navy. Submarines normally don’t have controls to the airpower above and have to rely on the carriers for reconnaissance and other purposes. With the help of this drone, submersibles can boost communications and may even use it for aerial warfare as well; something submarines aren’t really good at and dread a lot.
The aircraft was made by AeroVironment and was based on an earlier design called Switchblade, an unmanned drone deployed in the Middle East in 2011. It is now a lost-cost solution to expand submarine operations and part of Navy’s “Advanced Weapons Enhanced by submarine UAS against mobile targets” program. The drone comes with infrared and electro-optical sensors, GPS modules and encrypted communications capabilities. It’s flight time is one hour which is quite impressive as well. The Navy is probably going to green-light this drone as well as many others currently in development phase. So, it is not something from the far away future at all and will probably be fully integrated within the next few years. Very soon, the 21-inch torpedo tubes could also be used for launching drones as well. But, it will also raise more questions about its missions as drones are remotely piloted and may be used in spying activities as well.
Nevertheless, it is such a sight to watch a drone zip out of the ocean into the air!