Yesterday, Boeing introduced the Echo Voyager, the company’s new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with a hybrid rechargeable power system and a modular payload bay that enables it to operate autonomously for months at a time.
The impressive vessel is 51-feet-long and can be launched and recovered without support ships that are normally required to assist AUVs – it collects data at sea, returns to the surface, and then provides feedback in near real-time. It is the latest in Boeing’s family, joining the 32-foot Echo Seeker and the 18-foot long Echo Ranger which only operate for two-to-three days at a time.
According to Lance Towers, Director of Sea and Land at Boeing's Phantom Works, defense budgets are not going up, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget isn’t going up, and neither are the budgets of Boeing’s private partners. But requirements will always go up, so they all need a way to do today's missions in a more cost-effective manner.
It’s why Boeing designed Voyager as a baseline vehicle that can carry a wide variety of payloads for multiple customers. This AUV can be used for anything from surface intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to payload deployment, critical infrastructure protection, or as a weapons platform.
Voyager will begin sea trials off the California coast later this summer, but it shouldn’t be anything new for a company that has designed and operated manned and unmanned deep sea systems since the 1960s.