March 20

Ocean Aero, based in San Diego, will deliver underwater drones that can stay at sea for months and operate both on the surface as well as underwater, for a Homeland Security program. The company has been awarded a multi-year, $4 million dollar contract by the US Department of Homeland Security.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Eric Patten, the chief executive of the 20-employee company, declined to say how many of the underwater drones will be delivered as part of the program.

It’s a broad program that is solving many DHS problems. They’ve got coastal surveillance-type problems. They have oceanography and meteorology things they want to know about the ocean. There are a variety of things.

Both the Navigator and Discovery underwater drones from Ocean Aero, which are capable to dive 600 feet and 300 feet underwater, have been contracted by DHS.

Both underwater drone models are about 13 feet long and come with a retractable wing that allows them to traverse long distances at sea using wind speeds up to 5 knots. In bad weather or when operating underwater, the wing retracts. The drones can operate at sea for months at a time.

The underwater drones come equipped with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and solar panels to power the electronic thrusters. An underwater acoustic tracking system and communications technology are also included.

Ocean Aero has received funding from Teledyne Technologies and Lockheed Martin. The company assisted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to monitor in a bay in Washington State for algae blooms last year.

‘We had a really good 2019,’ said Patten, a former Navy officer. ‘We are at an inflection point not just for the company but for maritime unmanned systems.’

What do you think about these underwater drones? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photo: San Diego Union-Tribune

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