That comforting news is from Anduril, the company working on a co-shared $140 million incentive contract to develop an Australian Extra Large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (XL-UAV) in collaboration with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). According to Anduril founder, Palmer Luckey, work is progressing rapidly and is already three months in advance of the schedule after only eight months of work.
The schedule is to deliver an initial three XL-UAVs – named “Ghost Shark” – within three years, though figuring out when this potentially revolutionary capability will be deployed operationally is still a guessing game. The current phase of the project will see different prototypes built locally based on Anduril’s commercial Dive-LD platform, one of which has already been delivered to Sydney as an underwater testbed. It is anticipated that they will be the size of a school bus and their energy system will be an evolution of the LD’s energy system to enable a very long range.
If successful, these will go into series production and have the potential of being force multipliers adding greatly to the RAN’s underwater warfare capabilities. They will be used for a variety of missions for defence and commercial purposes, developed at a fraction of the cost of existing undersea capabilities. They will be integrated with Anduril’s artificial intelligence-powered Lattice operating system, which enables sophisticated advances to existing subsurface systems through machine learning, smart sensor processing and advanced autonomy. The ground-breaking collaborative autonomy capabilities enabled by Lattice represent a level of sophistication not seen in current autonomous undersea capabilities.