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Navy Launches Drone From Submerged Sub

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The Navy said Thursday that it successfully launched the XFC folding-wing unmanned aerial system (UAS, or drone) from a torpedo tube on the USS Providence, while the submarine was submerged. The all-electric, fuel-cell-powered aircraft has an X-wing configuration in flight that folds for storage and launch. The UAS was delivered from the submarine to the water’s surface using a canister system first developed for Tomahawk missiles. Once at the surface, the canister appeared “as a spar buoy,” which floats upright in the water.  It then launched vertically from the canister and flew a mission that lasted several hours while delivering a live video feed back to the sub. 

The Navy says the demonstration is the product of less than six years of development and showcases the collaborative efficiencies between the Navy laboratory and industry. And because it uses a system developed for Tomahawks, crew members are already largely familiar with the system. The XFC itself is fully autonomous. Its all-electric fuel-cell-powered system provides it with an endurance of more than six hours. Once free from its canister, and after “achieving a marginal altitude,” it deploys its X-wing airfoil and initiates horizontal flight. The Navy says the system is “relatively low cost” and optimized for low altitude surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The vehicle can also be used for land-based operation and is capable of being launched from a truck bed or “small surface vessel.”

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