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A robotic swarm of “ring-wing” submarines could someday scout underwater locations for oil.

Engineers from GO Science, an engineering firm specializing in aerodynamic robots, have struck a $10 million deal with an unnamed oil company. GO’s ring-wing foil concept has applications for aerial vehicles as well, but the startup company has currently focused on undersea flyers.

One GO Science representative told The Register that the ring-wing form can travel up to 8 knots on battery power, and with 33 percent more efficiency than other alternative underwater shapes. However, the deal-clincher came from the company’s swarm technology, which could organize up to 2,500 of the subs into a coordinated autonomous group.

Each Ring Hydro Vessel Agent Under-liquid (RHyVAU) can get an orientation relative to the swarm by using a compass, inertial sensors and acoustic signals, and going by a surface coordinator unit that uses GPS. The underwater bots can then form up in a grid on the seabed and deploy sensors for oil-drilling surveys.

The engineers, formerly employees of British defense company BAE Systems, also have military applications in mind for their robots. Certainly the U.S. Navy has already expressed strong interest in building its own undersea drone fleet, as PopSci has previously noted.

GO Science even has a “uRaptor” aerial design that would use twin duct fans for near-vertical takeoff. That concept may face competition from similar unmanned systems, but there’s plenty of room in the sky for military drones of all types.

[via The Register]

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