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Northrop Grumman Unveils Underwater Drone 'Manta Ray'

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Northrop Grumman Corporation has just revealed the first image of its groundbreaking Manta Ray prototype, marking a significant milestone in the development of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). Inspired by the graceful glide of the manta ray fish, this innovative UUV promises to revolutionize undersea missions with its long-duration, long-range capabilities and payload capacity, all achieved without the need for on-site human logistics.

Developed under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Manta Ray program, this new class of UUV aims to demonstrate critical technologies for extended-duration operations in challenging ocean environments. Dr. Kyle Woerner, Program Manager of the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) at DARPA, highlights the potential of such systems for persistent operations in forward environments, offering increased operational flexibility for host vessels and relief of workload for servicing ports.

According to Northrop Grumman, the Manta Ray prototype embodies cutting-edge advancements in energy management, propulsion systems, underwater detection, mission management, and material durability. The company's commitment to a disciplined systems engineering approach underscores its dedication to defining demonstration system objectives and identifying enabling technologies for future UUV systems.

Source: Northrop Grumman

One of the most intriguing features of the Manta Ray prototype is its ability to anchor to the seafloor in a low-power state while harvesting energy from the environment. Drawing inspiration from nature, Northrop Grumman has leveraged the social and curious nature of the manta ray fish to create a UUV capable of autonomous operation and long-duration missions.

Mr. Alan Lytle, Vice President of Strategy and Mission Solutions at Northrop Grumman, emphasizes the critical role of Manta Ray in subsea warfare and the Department of Defense's Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) vision. With command, control, and communications (C3) capability enabling long-duration operations with minimal human supervision, Manta Ray is poised to provide valuable data for decision-making during missions.

Source: Northrop Grumman

The Manta Ray prototype's energy-saving technologies and energy-harvesting capabilities, developed in collaboration with Seatrec, offer the promise of near-unlimited distances and durations of operation. Furthermore, Northrop's innovative self-insulating, wet-mate electrical connectors facilitate seamless energy transfer and data transmission between the UUV and the Mission Unlimited UUV Station.

While details on the specific payloads of Manta Ray remain undisclosed, its large internal volume suggests versatility in supporting various mission sets, including undersea mapping, mine detection, and passive surveillance. The level of autonomy required for operational effectiveness underscores the importance of advancements in automated piloting and autonomous mission systems.

Source: Northrop Grumman

As Northrop Grumman prepares to test the full-scale Manta Ray prototype later this year, the unveiling marks a significant step forward in the development of next-generation UUVs. With potential applications ranging from maritime defense to scientific exploration, Manta Ray represents a leap forward in unmanned undersea technology.


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