Lockheed Martin has demonstrated the ability to launch a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on command from an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

The Marlin MK2 AUV launched the Vector Hawk UAV during a cross-domain command-and-control event hosted by the U.S. Navy. An unmanned surface vehicle, the Submaran, developed by Ocean Aero, provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.

The Vector Hawk UAV (l) and the Marlin MK2 AUV. Image credit: Lockheed Martin.The Vector Hawk UAV (l) and the Marlin MK2 AUV. Image credit: Lockheed Martin. “This effort marks a milestone in showing that an unmanned aircraft, surface vessel and undersea vehicle can communicate and complete a mission cooperatively and completely autonomously,” says Kevin Schlosser, chief architect, unmanned systems technology.

During the exercise, the Submaran relayed instructions to Marlin from a ground-control station via underwater acoustic communications. Following these instructions, the Marlin launched the Vector Hawk using a specially designed canister from the surface of the Narragansett Bay. Following launch, Vector Hawk assumed a mission flight track, and all three autonomous vehicles communicated operational status to ground control to maintain situational awareness and provide a means to command and control all assets.

Lockheed's four-pound Vector Hawk is designed for canister or hand launch in all-weather, maritime environments to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. The vehicle can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers and is capable of fully autonomous flight and landing, which enables operators’ to shift their focus from flying the aircraft to managing the mission.

The Marlin MK2 is a battery-powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250-pound payload capacity, 18-24 hours of endurance, a depth rating of 1,000 feet and a weight of approximately 2,000 pounds. Its open-architecture design and modularity are intended to allow new mission packages to be quickly integrated.

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