Last year, Lockheed partnered with Ocean Aero for a technology demonstration at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.
A version of Ocean Aero's Submaran patrolled the surface above a Lockheed undersea drone -- the Marlin -- providing communications gateway from the shore to the submerged vessel. The link between the shore and the Submaran used radio frequency technology, while the link between the Submaran and the Marlin used acoustic communications.
"That communications gateway mission is critical for a ton of folks," Patten said. "Defense is great use case, but commercial use cases are just the same. If you are operating a wind farm off the coast and you have things underneath the surface and you want to communicate with that equipment, there are only a couple of ways to do it."
Ocean Aero, which is also backed by Teledyne Technologies, makes three different drones. Its S10 Submaran is a 14-foot-long craft with an 8-foot solar-wind wing. It can dive about 30 feet and glide underwater. Its rechargeable lithium batteries allow it to spend months at sea and targets the research and commercial markets.
A sister vessel is the same size but can dive 660 feet and maneuver under the surface.
Ocean Aero's big boat, called the Silent Aero, is 40 feet long, can dive 660 feet and carry a payload of 2,000 pounds.
About two years ago, Ocean Aero received a Defense Department Rapid Innovation Fund grant to develop a hybrid unmanned underwater-surface vehicle that can travel long distances on the surface and then submerge to avoid surface traffic and conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
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