Drones may be beginning to fill the skies and seas for a number of purposes, but what if a drone could lurk beneath the surface, just waiting to be deployed on an aerial operation? A drone developed by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab can do just such a thing, able to remain submerged for months prior to launch. When launched, the drone then ‘swims’ to the surface of the water and takes to the air just like any other quadcopter drone.
Named the Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System or CRACUNS, this drone is created using cutting edge techniques such as those employed by 3D printing. This construction gives it a composite airframe with which it is able to survive the water movement and pressure of remaining underwater for long periods of time. The sensitive components of the drone that would be destroyed by water are contained within a dry pressure compartment and any exposed components have had commercially available waterproof coatings applied to them. So far, these techniques have held up, with a CRACUNS drone being kept in sea water for two months with no sign of damage or operational issues.
CRACUNS also contains no metal components, to remove susceptibility to rusting as well as managing to be lightweight and low-cost. Altogether, this makes CRACUNS an attractive proposal for researchers and government agencies as the drone is able to operate in areas that were impossible for drones in the past. Large numbers of the drones could also be employed at any one time, either to cover a larger area or in case some units were to be lost. Whether drones like CRACUNS become more commonplace remains to be seen, but the techniques used in its design and construction show that there is still room for the development of groundbreaking new methods for fabricating machines.