Israel-based unmanned aerial systems (UAS) company SpearUAV has officially unveiled its encapsulated autonomous quadcopter, submarine-launched Ninox 103 UW Sub-to-Air, which it claims is the first loitering drone that can be launched from a submarine and other submerged platforms for immediate beyond-line-of-sight situational awareness. Designed for undetectable underwater launch, the Ninox is an autonomous, AI-based system that was unveiled at the Undersea Defence Technology exhibition in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The company says the “sub-to-air” system has proven capabilities in underwater-to-air transition for beyond-line-of-sight situational awareness.
The Ninox 103 is stored in a capsule that can be deployed from a submarine. This capsule floats to the surface and can remain dormant for up to 24 hours before the ruggedized, maritime-hardened drone launches. The Ninox 103 has a range of 10 km (6 miles) and an endurance of 45 minutes. With a payload of 1 kg (2.2 lb), the drone has low acoustic, thermal, and visual signatures, and features Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) sensors for reconnaissance and automatic target acquisition using its open-architecture artificial intelligence system. Communications with the submarine, other platforms, or special forces teams ashore use encrypted communications, 3rd-party data integration, and cross-domain connectivity.
With their ability to submerge, submarines have a major strategic and tactical advantage. However, from their inception they’ve also suffered since from the disadvantage of not being able to see what’s going on above the waves beyond the horizon of a periscope. For this reason, for over a century, submariners have experimented with a number of ways to extend their view. With varying degrees of success, kites, gyrocopters, and even airplanes have been launched from submarines, but all of these had the drawback of the boat needing to surface for them to be deployed. In recent years, navies have looked to drones that can be launched underwater to act as a reconnaissance platform. The Ninox 103 is based on a quadcopter design that allows it to loiter in place by hovering.
UVision Air Ltd revealed its strategic investment in SpearUAV, who have developed an encapsulated autonomous quadcopter, submarine-launched. The US Navy is already buying the Blackwing 10C UAS from AeroVironment as part of its submarine-launched unmanned aerial system (SLUAS) program, which is aimed at providing a low-cost solution for operations in anti-access/aerial denial (A2/AD) environments. AeroVironment developed the system as part of a 2013 Navy and US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) sponsored joint capability technology demonstration (JCTD) called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM).