The US Department of Defense’s Silicon Valley-based accelerator, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), says it is accepting design proposals for an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be launched from underwater.

The drone should be able to travel through a column of water to the surface; orient itself; launch; and transition to flight, DIUx says. The government is willing to provide an underwater launcher already in use for another drone, but competitors are also welcome to submit their own launcher designs.

Blackwing UAV - AeroVironment


The US Navy already launches a variant of AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone from underwater, called the Blackwing. That drone launches from submerged attack and guided missile submarines, as well as unmanned underwater vehicles. It often serves as a communications hub and an observation platform to coordinate attacks.

DIUx wants a drone that can provide video, carry additional sensors and fly for more than one hour, up to a range of 26nm (48km) away – specifications similar to the Blackwing. Communications to and from the UAV must be secured with AES-256 bit encryption.

The agency wants the UAV to be easy to fly with controls that are similar to commercially available drone controls. It should also be able to autonomously fly with limited or no communications from a human controller.

The winning design could result in the award of a follow-on production contract, after additional prototyping efforts, DIUx says.