Boeing reveals plans for fleet of giant robotic underwater military drones

Boeing's Echo Voyager is the latest unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) and is currently being tested off the south California coast.Boeing

Boeing's giant underwater military drone programme has been given a boost after it announced a partnership with the US's largest shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls, which will see the development of a fleet of futuristic unmanned vehicles.

As part of the Navy's Advanced Undersea Prototyping programme, Boeing is already working on the Echo Voyager – a giant sub-like drone with the ability to fire missiles or stay underwater for months at a time to collect data. Huntington Ingalls is expected to join the project of the 51-foot drone and will continue to collaborate on new undersea drones and vehicles.

"This partnership provides the Navy a cost-effective, low-risk path to meet the emergent needs that prompted the Navy's Advanced Undersea Prototyping program," said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works.

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"We are combining Boeing's preeminent UUV maritime engineering team with our nation's leading shipbuilder and Navy technical services company to get operational vehicles to the Navy years ahead of the standard acquisition process."

As the landscape of warfare is rapidly changing with the advent of autonomous technology, militaries around the globe are working on robotic offensive and defensive solutions, which is why the partnership with Huntington Ingalls is significant as it will boost the timeline to have products ready for action sooner.

Aside from the Echo Voyager there were no hints as to what else the duo has in development, yet the partnership will aim to revolutionise the autonomous underwater vehicle sector.

"We look forward to a long relationship with Boeing as we embark together to field this unmanned force-multiplier for the Navy," said Andy Green, executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries and president of the company's Technical Solutions division. "I am confident this team will continue redefining the autonomy paradigm for UUVs."

Boeing has been pumping significant resource into autonomous vehicle technologies as of late and just revealed plans to test pilotless jetliners in 2018 with AI taking over the controls for the entire flight.

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