There is water on the bottom of the ocean, and Boeing’s Echo Seeker unmanned submarine is designed to explore a lot of it. NOAA, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, estimates that humans have explored less than 5 percent of the ocean. Robots like the autonomous Echo Seeker offer a massive advantage over previous submarines.
Echo Seeker is 32 feet long, battery-powered, and can stay underwater for up to three days. Underwater, it moves at over 3 mph, which means it can travel over 260 miles on a charge. It can fit 170 cubic feet of payload inside of its blocky body. To get to the sea, it fits into a single shipping crate.
Unlike the unmanned vehicles in the sky, which can beam signals to satellites or use radio waves to talk to their remote controllers, submarines can’t rely on radio waves without returning to the surface. Traditionally, unmanned submarines use tethers to get around this, with underwater wires carrying signals between the surface and the sub below. But that method limits an underwater explorer to operating where a supervising ship can go. Autonomy, instead, means that a pre-programmed vessel can explore on its own for some time.
On its website, Boeing has Echo Seeker filed under defense, and a video about the project refers to both exploration and military uses. There are no customers lined up yet, but a robot submarine that can operate on its own in secret sounds like the kind of thing the U.S. Navy would love to buy.
Watch a video about it below: