Oh Look, Boeing Made a Scary Giant Robot Submarine
It can loiter beneath the seas for six months. Anyone else terrified?
With the new Echo Voyager, Boeing's secret Phantom Works division has brought us yet another step closer to robotic domination of land, sea, and air. 51 feet long, weighing 50 tons, capable of diving to 11,000 feet and ranging autonomously for up to six months at a time, it's Boeing's first unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) that doesn't require a support ship. And it can be loaded up with anything from sensors, to cargo...to weaponry.
In propulsory terms, the Echo Voyager isn't much different from the diesel-electric subs that quietly threaten America's aircraft carriers to this day. Power comes from massive lithium-ion or silver zinc battery packs, and when those run low after a couple days the robo-sub pops to the surface where its diesel-powered generator can suck in air and fart out exhaust while recharging the power cells. With a full load of a thousand gallons of diesel on board, the Echo Voyager can travel 7,500 miles before it needs to hit up a truck stop.
While its torpedo-like design might cause you to think it was made for military action, Boeing says they developed the Echo Voyager for a wide variety of customers. Jammed with redundant systems and equipped with satellite uplinks affixed to a retractable periscope, the UUV makes for a prime platform for mapping out undersea pipeline routes or monitoring deep-sea water quality. Still, look carefully amongst the rapidly-scrolling list of potential missions in the video below, and you'll see "reconnaissance," "submarine decoy," and, most eerily, "weapons platform."
Well, at least now that waterproof Johns Hopkins quadcopter drone will have an autonomous big brother to ride around on and conspire against mankind with.