Source: Popular Mechanics
Take one jet ski, add a remote control and a sonar unit, and you have a new breed of robot warrior. While in harbor, warships make a tempting target for terrorists, because a single diver with an explosive charge can cause massive damage and loss of life. But a new robotic unmanned jet ski, known as Blackfish, may help even the odds. Developed by QinetiQ North America, in response to demand from the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Warfare Centre, Blackfish belongs to a range of technology that includes sensors and weapons for “integrated swimmer defense.”
Operated remotely from up to a mile away, Blackfish is fast and maneuverable enough to intercept intruders. Harbor or fleet defenses will normally cover the entire area with powerful sonar, and Blackfish would then be dispatched to get a closer look and take action if necessary. Its high-resolution sonar and an underwater camera can distinguish divers from other objects, and it can carry a range of weapons for lethal and nonlethal response as required.
Mark Hewitt, a senior vice president at Technology Solutions Group, an engineering and research and development group, says that Blackfish was built using off-the-shelf components. The jet ski was chosen as a lightweight, rugged platform that could be deployed easily, with a 40-knot speed (about 46 mph). It’s smaller than a speedboat, and has the advantage of self-righting if it capsizes.
The primary underwater sensor on Blackfish is a Sound Metrics Didson imaging sonar that can acquire a clear picture of a diver from a hundred feet away. It’s also outfitted with two cameras: one underwater with a light for illuminating darkness and another above the waterline to help pilot the craft.The main technical challenge, Hewitt says, was getting the jet ski to move slowly enough: “We couldn’t get it to slow down to the speed of a swimmer.” The problem was solved by adding bow thrusters, underwater propulsion jets that make Blackfish far more maneuverable than other jet skis. It can turn on its axis and perform precise movements, allowing it to stay close to a diver.Read more: The Military’s Weapon-Carrying, Terrorist-Spotting Autonomous Jet Ski