DARPA to Start Testing an Robot Submarine-Hunting Drone that will be 50 times cheaper than a Destroyer

Early in 2016, DARPA will begin testing a 132-foot unmanned submarine-hunting ocean drone in San Diego. The Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUCV) will be a persistent sub hunter similar to an underwater Predator drone.

The 132-foot-long, 140-ton ACTUV is being built by Leidos at the Vigor Shipyard [formerly Oregon Iron Works] in Clackamas, Ore. The vessel is about 90 percent complete. The hardware of the systems is complete, with software being engineered presently.

DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) seeks to develop a new type of independently deployed unmanned surface vessel (USV) that would track adversaries’ ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines over thousands of miles at a fraction of current costs. ACTUV would operate under sparse remote supervisory control and safely follow the maritime “rules of the road” for collision avoidance known as COLREGS.

On the US DoD’s science site, the vessel is being compared to naval destroyers, which are currently tasked with trailing—and are outfitted to eliminate—submarines. The drone boat costs as little as $15,000 a day to operate, versus the destroyer’s $700,000 per day price tag.

Other advantages of the ACTUV concept include greater payload and endurance than a ship-launched unmanned surface vehicle, the ability to launch from and recover at a pier, and the elimination of the need to integrate the system with a ship.