With the growing proliferation of submarines and advanced mine technology, the unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) builder Liquid Robotics is working on sensor mesh to create an undersea acoustic shield.
“We call it the digital ocean,” says Gary Gysin, company president and CEO, Liquid Robotics, “It’s part of the Internet of things. We know more about space than we do the ocean.”
Anchoring the company’s systems is the Wave Glider platform, a relatively lightweight and inexpensive UUV that, Liquid Robotics boasts, has already logged 1.3 million nautical miles in every sea.
“We’ve gone from pole to pole,” Gysin says. “We just went through Antarctic, and we’ve been to the Arctic. We’re in South China Sea -- all over the place.”
He notes: “Maritime border protection, fishing, commercial transport, scientific study, climate change – these are all applications for this technology.”
When it comes to defense, he says, development is focused mostly on antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
For ASW, the company is focused on two primary technologies, the first being the ability to communicate with “bottom nodes.”
He says the company is developing something akin to an “acoustic picket fence.”
He explains, “Something ‘trips the wire,’ and we relay that information to either shipside system or aircraft.”
His company has developed acoustic communications systems that operate down to a depth of 8,000 meters “with great results,” he says.
Other technology includes more surface-depth connections. “If we’re towing a hydrophone,” he says, “we can drop below the thermals and get more contacts.:
Moving between and below thermal layers has been a notoriously difficult hurdle for navy operators conducting ASW.
“We’ve gone operational with Navy,” he says. “They’re employing our platforms for ASW. It’s in specific theaters. They’re hot spots.”
The deployment started as an urgent need and transitioned within the last year to a program, he says.
And the platform is proving equally as promising for countermine (MCM) operations, says Sir George Zambellas, the former First Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy, who recently joined Liquid Robotics’ global Strategic Advisory Board.
“It’s all the same,” Zambellas says “It’s the dynamics of the shallow-water environment, less than a depth of 200 meters.”
He adds, “There is a whole new thinking when it comes to MCM. All that was before, that was centered around manned platforms, is out. People get twitchy over ship numbers, but not unmanned ones. Its less politically sensitive. We are leading the revolution underwater. Now we have to invest in new technologies.”
And as new subsidiary of Boeing, Liquid Robotics could find that investment comes more easily. As Gysin notes, the company’s Wave Glider meshes well with Boeing other platforms.
Says Zambellas: “It’s such a deceptively simple beast.”
----Michael Fabey -- Scout Warrior Senior Pentagon Correspondent
---- Michael Fabey can be reached at Fabeyships@aol.com
--- Fabey is the author of an upcoming Scribner book "Crashback" - The Power Clash Between the US & China