Underwater Drone Fits in a Backpack
Bilal Khan posted on February 07, 2017 |
General Dynamics’ Bluefin SandShark autonomous underwater vehicle has max speed of 5 knots and dives...

In contrast to the 1,650-lb Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which played a major role in the recovery effort of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s black box in 2014, General Dynamics’ Bluefin SandShark is a substantially smaller AUV, weighing only 16 lbs. with its payload (and 11 lbs. when empty).

The SandShark is marketed as a “micro” AUV capable of a top speed of five knots and diving depth of 656 feet. According to General Dynamics, it is a “one-person-portable” system that is “small enough to be carried in a backpack.”

In addition to its obvious users—government bodies and armed forces—the SandShark is also available to civilian clients, such as commercial entities and scientific organizations.

The SandShark is an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), capable of operating without a pilot. Unlike remotely-operated UUVs, the SandShark can be preprogrammed with operational tasks. AUVs vary in size, range and payload capacity, which influence how they are used. For example, the Lockheed Martin Marlin is a 2,000-lb AUV designed for long-endurance deep-sea observation work.

With a torpedo-like design, end-users can equip the SandShark’s modular payload area with an array of equipment, such as cameras and acoustic transceivers. The SandShark’s payload area can be optionally dry or flooded.

The SandShark’s propulsion, power and control systems are housed in the tail. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The AUV’s mast section comprises of its on/off switch, GPS and WiFi antenna.

The Bluefin SandShark. (Image courtesy of General Dynamics.)
The Bluefin SandShark. (Image courtesy of General Dynamics.)
The SandShark was designed to be low-cost and customizable. General Dynamics states that the AUV is “compatible with most underwater vehicle autonomy suites”, which are the systems users use to feed AUVs with instructions.

A sonar-equipped version of the SandShark will be available in June.

For insight in the wider AUV space, see how Lockheed Martin is innovating its Marlin AUV by configuring it to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles.

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