New Underwater Drone Algorithms Enable Seabed Missions

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The US Navy is developing and testing algorithms meant to sustain unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) operability in operations of bathymetry –a method of mapping sea floors and identifying materials underwater that was modernized to amplify intercept missions against submerged threats.

The navy reports that this latest project aims to bolster the UUV’s autonomous cooperation and relative location estimations of sub-surface drone fleets over longer periods of bathymetry operations.

One of the testbeds for the initiative is Iver 3, an autonomous underwater vehicle operated by Brigham Young University’s Field Robotic Systems (FRoSt) Laboratory and developed by defense industry partner L3Harris. BYU Electrical and Computer Engineering Dr. Joshua Mangelson explains: “To test these techniques, we are developing a low-cost fleet of UUVs based on the Disposable Reusable Expeditionary Warfare Underwater Vehicle (DREW-UV) developed at NSWC PCD. These low-cost UUVs will be used in coordination with BYU’s IVER3 UUVs to conduct in-site testing of the proposed algorithms.”

According to The Defense Post, the Iver 3 drone is 188 to 216 cm in size and is integrated with wireless communication, multiple scanning technology, onboard electronics, and programmable navigation lights. It is powered by an electric motor and has an operational depth of up to 200 meters and a maximum speed of 4 knots.

The work for the bathymetry UUV project is being facilitated under the US Department of Defense’s NEEC program, which opens opportunities for students, educators, and scientists to jointly explore solutions for modern challenges while nurturing next-generation naval engineering talents.

BYU PhD student Kalliyan Lay remarked on the project: “Working on the NEEC project serves as a reminder that [my] scholarly endeavors have tangible real-world applications, directly impacting human safety and national security,” and added that having the opportunity to visit the sponsoring naval base and see the similarity in research confirms that her research is relevant.