Underwater drones continue to advance, the market may be heating up, as numerous countries are racing forward with competing designs. North Korea has just reported that it has successfully testing one of its naval nuclear attack drones. Marine drones pose challenges that have almost led to an end to funding for some Navy programs, but the Defense Department deems underwater drones too important to national security interests to scrap.
Funding has been in jeopardy for various underwater ventures. One project the Navy was working on, had difficulty convincing officials to finance the $7M for deep water research, that it hopes to conduct in 2024. The military intends to host a competition among manufacturers, to determine who could provide the best underwater drone to their specifications. Another wing of the Navy has been more successful with their marine drone fleet. The Us Navy’s 4th Fleet is far more advanced in its drone program, and is looking to take the integration to the next level. The unit is looking to expand their marine drone fleet to enable it to work in tandem with aerial drones. The Navy’s plan creates a complete unmanned unit capable of patrolling the border, from the air and sea.
These programs are even more vital to national security, with recent testing reportedly being conducted in North Korea of a nuclear capable underwater drone. The successful test supposedly traveled 621 miles before exploding on target. Some are skeptical about whether the claims made about the test are accurate, still the recent increase in testing is cause for concern. South Korea and the US have resumed joint exercises, which were put on pause during the pandemic. North Korea sees these drills as dress rehearsal for an attack.
Germany is building an 82 foot underwater drone, that will be the largest in the world. The civilian drone is drawing the attention of other countries, because so many are in a race to manufacture the best and largest drones. The payload capacity should allow the MUM, modifiable underwater mothership, as it is known, the ability to transport smaller drones to deepwater locations for deployment.
As the technology continues to improve, the underwater drone market will continue to grow. As the demand for remote and autonomous vehicles is sure to increase, the competition for market share will grow more intense. The industry needs to solve issues plaguing underwater drones from having widespread integration, mainly communication issues and high costs. The manufacturers who are able to solve these issues will gain customers among the defense and oil industries.
Various drone offerings by the likes of companies, such as Oceanbotics and Boxfish, are bringing drones to the market that are helping explore the depths in ways we used to only dream possible. One of the main benefits these companies offer to consumers is ease of use. Both of these drones have powerful LED lighting and user friendly controls that simplify the onboarding process. An underwater drone with camera can help divers and others explore to depths that were previously unknown.
Other marine drone manufacturers are focused on researchers, such as the Saildrone Explorer, which is traveling around the Hawaiian islands to gather water and conduct testing at a scale which has not otherwise been possible. This study hopes to measure the impacts of climate change and pollution on water quality. Researchers are excited by the possibilities.
Eighty percent of the ocean remains unexplored. The environment is an unforgiving place, creating many unique challenges that need to be overcome before widespread adoption can even come close to being a reality. However, the military is going forward with their investments to make fully autonomous air and water drone fleets that will be highly capable of taking any threat that comes their way.