Boeing’s extra large unmanned undersea vehicle (XLUVV), the 51 foot (15 meter) long Echo Voyager, has started sea trials off the coast of Southern California, the company announced.
Boeing test engineers are checking the vehicle’s communications, autonomy, propulsion, systems integration and the vehicle’s battery operation with a mix of surface swims and shallow dives.
Initial testing was done in Boeing’s Huntington Beach facility where Echo Voyager was tested in a large pool before being trucked to the Pacific.
According to Boeing, the 51-foot-long vehicle will not only be autonomous while underway, but it will also be launched and recovered without the support ships that normally assist UUVs.
The ocean testing is critical to Echo Voyager’s success because under water autonomy has a higher level of difficulty, the company explained. Once Echo Voyager submerges for a long distance swim it is completely on its own.
“Unlike an aerial vehicle, or a satellite where you can communicate with it when it’s in trouble, with subsea vehicles you can’t do that because of the communication,” said David Flowers, Boeing Program Manager of XLUUV Development. “So autonomy is that much more important. The vehicle has got to understand what to do if it gets in trouble, make rule-based decisions and act in a way that allows it to stay safe and complete its mission.”
The vessel can be used for surface intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, as a weapon platform or a mine countermeasures vessel among other capabilities listed.
Boeing said this initial testing will continue leading up to Echo Voyager’s first deep water long endurance run. Watch the video below to see Echo Voyager in open water.