Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAV) have been all the rage as more people and businesses find new applications for this technology to improve their daily lives. Now, Boeing is looking to rework this technology into something that could help map a survey the deepest depths of our oceans. Boeing’s 51-long unmanned undersea vehicle or UUV can scour the oceans for up to 6 months at a time without the need to return to a surface ship for refueling.
Named the Echo Voyager, this is not the first UUV developed by Boeing but is in fact their most self-sufficient. Running on lithium-ion or silver zinc batteries that have the ability to power it for a few days at a time, Voyager has a diesel generator that will recharge the batteries when they’re running low. Instead of having to swim back to a ship on the surface, Voyager will resurface wherever it is located and power up its diesel engine so as to release the exhaust in the air rather than the sea.
Having the ability to be nearly completely self-sufficient, it opens up entirely new possibilities for ocean exploration while dramatically reducing the costs. Hiring a surface ship along with an entire crew is extremely expensive. Instead with the Voyager, a company can launch the 50-ton UUV from anywhere and have it sail to its destination on its own.
The impressive 7,500 mile range can allow the Voyager to make treks that were nearly impossible with Boeing’s or any other UUV available today. The hybrid rechargeable power system is really what makes this UUV spectacular. No other UUV out there can stay out at sea longer and the added benefit of being completely un-tethered from any surface ship.
Any ocean is notoriously difficult to explore but now more than ever it is critical to investigate what lies below the murky depths.
Businesses that inspect and maintain underwater infrastructure are particularly interested in the benefits Voyager has to offer. Some of these companies are responsible for surveying and inspecting underwater infrastructure that spans impressive distances across the ocean. Having an unmanned vehicle that is able to stay stationed near these critical structures could prove invaluable. Furthermore, if there is an immediate issue, instead of having to prepare a crew and ship along with a tethered UUV, Boeing’s Voyager can steam full speed toward the area of concern.
An application that has piqued the interest of oil companies is its ability to survey and map the ocean floor. Accurate scans and its ability to reach depths of 11,000 feet, this could prove an essential tool for oil exploration and barge inspections. The range offers these companies the ability to explore an incredible amount of the sea floor without ever having to put a person in danger or stop to refuel. The cost savings could be immense.
The Echo Voyager has already begun testing at Boeing’s 35-foot deep pool in Huntington Beach, California and deep-sea trials will begin off the California coast this summer. No word yet on the price or when it will be commercially available. This impressive technology is sure to have a lasting impact on ocean exploration, there’s no telling what we will discover.