XFC UAV launched from the USS Providence (via Navy)
Drones have been making headlines almost on a daily basis concerning new advancements and capabilities, such as Amazon’s Prime Air package delivery system and Mark Mueller’s fail-safe system that keeps drones aloft after propeller malfunctions. When it comes to drone delivery systems however, nothing can top (at this point) the US Navy’s XFC UAV launch from a submerged submarine. Designed by the Naval Research Center, the drone, known as the eXperimental Fuel Cell, is a fully autonomous, all electric powered UAV that has a flight-time of over six hours depending on the payload. Unlike combustion-powered vehicles, the all-electric hydrogen-cell powered UAV is inherently stealthy making virtually no noise and is relatively free of a heat signature. Those features are impressive, considering the Navy plans on using them for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions. The UAV’s wings are foldable, which allows the craft to be stored in what is known as a Sea Robin launch system that actually functions much like a targeting or sparing buoy on the ocean’s surface. The Sea Robin itself was designed to fit inside a submarines Tomahawk or torpedo missile tubes, which are standard platforms currently placed on most US submarines (both fast attack and nuclear). The SwampWorks program works by firing the Sea Robin out of one of the missile platforms where it floats to the ocean surface. Once there, it launches the XFC drone vertically into the air where it then unfolds its wings and transitions to sustained vertical flight to carry out its mission. The whole project took just six years to complete, from concept to realization, which was done in order to get the latest advancements in technology to those in the special warfare community.
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