November 24 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets Year: 2015 Rating: 4 Hot
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to develop a plane capable of flight as well as submerging underwater. “The objectives issued by DARPA are for a vehicle that would have an airborne tactical radius of 1,000 nautical miles, a low-level flight radius of 100 nautical miles (which may leverage surface effects), and a submerged tactical radius of 12 nautical miles.” The hope is that it could carry up to eight people and a 2,000 pound payload (check out their full proposal here).
The problem with developing a submersible aircraft is that air flows around structures differently than water. Developing a body that is efficient through the air as well as water will be incredibly difficult. It may be so daunting that the cost of developing and building working prototypes would render it un-obtainable. The funny thing is, the Navy has wanted something like this for over 60 years. “The U.S. Navy had begun contemplating the merger of aviation and submarine technologies into a single vehicle as early as 1946.” Even the Russians tried to dabble in submersible airplanes (video after the jump).
How to make this plan succeed
The only real way to make something like this cost-effective is if it was an unmanned vehicle. This would allow the plane to hit the water at higher speeds for quicker air-to-water transitions as well as a freedom of design to make it whatever shape needed (since you wouldn’t have to worry about passenger space). Unmanned aircraft like this could fly quickly to troubled areas and submerge underwater, patrolling for enemy craft or providing real-time data on the layout of the surrounding territory above and below water. With it being unmanned, there’s no worry about having it being detected by hostile forces since no life is at risk. Radars are easy to spot but if you’re not worried about being spotted then powerful radars could be used.
An interesting idea, but it still has a long way to go towards implementation.
Check out a sweet concept drawing of it here.
via Defense Tech
Image courtesy of Flight Global