The Boeing Echo Voyager, an unmanned, undersea vehicle (UUV) that was unveiled earlier this month, can operate autonomously at sea for months at a time.
In order to deliver such long periods of operation, the vehicle uses a hybrid rechargeable power system which incorporates lithium ion and silver zinc batteries and a diesel generator. The batteries are able to provide power for up to a few days and are then charged by a diesel generator. The vessel then surfaces when required to discharge the exhaust.
The 51-foot-long submarine-like vehicle is not only autonomous while underway, but it can also be launched and recovered without the support ships that normally assist UUVs.
Boeing Echo Voyager is the latest innovation in Boeing’s UUV family, joining the 32-foot Echo Seeker and the 18-foot Echo Ranger.
“Echo Voyager is a new approach to how unmanned undersea vehicles will operate and be used in the future,” said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. “Our investments in innovative technologies such as autonomous systems are helping our customers affordably meet mission requirements now and in the years to come.”
Echo Voyager will begin sea trials off the California coast later this summer. Boeing has designed and operated manned and unmanned deep sea systems since the 1960s.
“Echo Voyager can collect data while at sea, rise to the surface, and provide information back to users in a near real-time environment,” said Lance Towers, director, sea & land, Boeing Phantom Works. “Existing UUVs require a surface ship and crew for day-to-day operations. Echo Voyager eliminates that need and associated costs.”
Boeing said it expects Echo Voyager will have in a wide range of industrial applications in fields including oil and gas, science and research, and military.
“Echo Voyager was not designed for one customer in mind,” Towers said. “Think about how the 737 is a commercial airline but it’s also got a derivative for the PA program, this is the same thing. It’s a baseline vehicle that has the ability to carry a wide variety of payloads for a multiple sets of customers.”