AUVSI: QinetiQ's Blackfish detects divers

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QinetiQ North America's Blackfish, a robotic jet ski, has completed trials in Newport, Rhode Island where it successfully detected intruding divers.

The company won a contract from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in 2008 to develop Blackfish as part of the Integrated Swimmer Defense program to detect underwater interlopers. As part of the Rhode Island trials, Blackfish was able to detect a swimmer, or a telltale bubble cloud, during multiple attempts. ONR is evaluating the results of the trials now and could order a second vehicle, says James Murray, QinetiQ program manager.

On display at the show is a working prototype, and the company says it is production-ready.

qinetiq north america blackfish uav, billypix
 © Billypix
AUVSI: QinetiQ's Blackfish detects divers

It's a basic commercial jet ski underwater, but "everything from the waterline on up, we did," says Murray. "It's a very modular platform and makes extensive use of commercial, off-the-shelf components."

Blackfish's swimmer defense payload includes sonar, an underwater camera with light and low-speed maneuvering thrusters. Optional payloads could include nonlethal weapons, remotely fired weapons or additional sensors. It has a top speed of more than 40 knots, an operational range of 1km (0.62 miles) from its antennas, a mission endurance of 1h, and batteries that can be swapped out in less than five minutes.