The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Pentagon has signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Systems and Martin Defense to create a full-scale demonstrator of the Manta Ray submarine robot. The military wants this submarine robot to be able to operate in the ocean for a long time without maintenance and repair.
Most underwater robots cannot stay underwater for long periods without a permanent cable connection to the ship. The duration of their missions depends on the capacity of the onboard batteries. The faster the underwater vehicles move and the more equipment they use, the more they discharge.
Some underwater robots are still capable of long missions. For example, the Russian submarine robot "Glider 2.0" can operate autonomously for up to nine months. He is able to move in an economical mode due to underwater planning at a speed of up to one kilometer per hour.
DARPA launched the program last year to create a new type of autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicle for long missions. The military did not indicate the exact characteristics of the robot. It should be able to operate for a long time in the ocean without maintenance and carry a payload. During the first phase of the project, the Advanced Defense Development Agency was engaged in preliminary testing of approaches to power supply, navigation and corrosion control.
At the end of December, the second phase of the Manta Ray project started: DARPA signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Systems and Martin Defense to test the main systems and create a full-scale demonstrator of an submarine robot. The agency has also released a 3D video showing how Manta Ray will work. On it, the robot glides right above the ocean floor, probably receiving energy from underwater currents. At some point, the machine releases a payload that appears to allow data collection, and then the load is fed back to the machine.
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