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Unmanned machines suited for both land and water are nothing now, but a patent filing from earlier in the year indicates that someone at Boeing is thinking of marrying to mediums that rarely meet: water and air.
Boeing’s Nathan Hiller patent application for a “rapid deployment air and water vehicle” shows a concept for a drone than can become a submarine.
The craft, that is still only in the concept stage, would be carried to destination by a transport aircraft. After detaching from the host, the remotely piloted drone would be capable of flying on its own, until entering the water when needed.
Once in the water, to reduce weight and drag, the machine will shed its propellers and wings, using explosive bolts and water soluble glue. In their place, propellers optimised for water will emerge.
Both propulsion systems – air and water alike – will be powered by a single engine.
In the water, the drone could be used to deliver a payload or supplies, as well as perform undersea surveillance. Diving depth would be controlled by onboard ballast tanks.
After completing its underwater mission, the drone will surface to convey collected data to nearby drones or to a command centre.
Such an air-to-water drone system could find uses in a variety of applications, from assisting in anti-piracy missions off the coasts of Somalia, or kidnapping situations. Further, it could prove incredibly useful for reconnaissance missions.
As yet, Boeing has not released a timescale for development. If Boeing manages to get this project off the ground, potential buyers could be looking at some incredibly useful tech.