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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can do many things, but they’re all mostly tied to flying. Now, they can do one more, and it’s almost awe inspiring. Drones can now lie dormant under water only to surreptitiously launch and perform their tasks.

The Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System, or CRACUNS for short, was developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). CRACUNS is a submersible UAV that can be launched from any underwater position, or even from an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) team came together with fabrication experts at John Hopkins’ Research and Exploratory Development Department to create this new and innovative type of unmanned vehicle.

“Engineers at APL have long worked on both Navy submarine systems and autonomous UAVs,” said Jason Stipes, project manager for CRACUNS,. “In response to evolving sponsor challenges, we were inspired to develop a vehicle that could operate both underwater and in the air.”

What’s amazing about CRACUNS is that it can remain for extended periods at considerable depth without metal parts to uphold structural integrity, nor any machined surfaces. The team achieved this by employing novel 3D printing techniques to create a lightweight composite airframe that is able to withstand the pressures of submersion.

To make CRACUNS survive the corrosive underwater environment, the team sealed the most critical components in a dry pressure vessel. Those parts that could not be sealed off were coated in commercially available protective coatings.

“CRACUNS successfully demonstrated a new way of thinking about the fabrication and use of unmanned systems,” said Rich Hooks, an aerospace and mechanical engineer at APL.