Australian navy readies for the age of large underwater drones

XL-AUV concept (Anduril Industries)
XL-AUV concept (Anduril Industries)

Anduril Industries are negotiating a US$100 million deal with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to design, develop, and manufacture extra-large autonomous underwater vehicles (XL-AUVs) for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) over a period of three years.

According to Anduril, the XL-AUV will be an affordable, autonomous, long endurance, multirole platform that can be configured for a wide range of missions such as surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting. The company did not disclose further details on the proposed design.

Anduril will deliver three XL-AUVs to the RAN by the end of the programme, and said it will design, develop, and manufacture the XL-AUVs in Australia. To support this effort, the company is planning to recruit local skilled talent as well as actively partner with other Australian SMEs and the research and technology communities to source nearly all elements of the supply chain for the program.

“The XL-AUV will harness the latest developments in autonomy, edge computing, sensor fusion, propulsion and robotics to bring advanced capability to the Royal [RAN],” said Anduril founder Palmer Luckey.

Anduril earlier announced in February that it had acquired Boston-based AUV developer Dive Technologies. The latter has developed the modular DIVE-LD AUV that can be optimized for a variety of defence and commercial operations such as long-range oceanographic sensing, undersea battlespace awareness, mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, seabed mapping and infrastructure health monitoring.

Dive Technologies has also developed a proprietary system architecture and exploited Large Format Additive Manufacturing (LFAM) techniques to reduce AUV manufacturing time and costs, and it is understood that Anduril will leverage on these advantages for the XL-AUV development.

The ADF has emerged as an enthusiastic adopter of unmanned technology and has in recent years advanced its understanding of unmanned operational concepts. For example, it has published in-depth studies such as the ‘Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS)’ in November 2020 while the RAN has released its ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2040′ in October 2020.

by Jr Ng