Lockheed Martin's Marlin Mk3 AUV is on its way to production

Lockheed Martin has partnered with SeaRobotics to build its versatile new AUV(Credit: Lockheed Martin/SeaRobotics)

Lockheed Martin has announced who will build its latest autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) – the Marlin Mk3. The new vehicle boasts some impressive capabilities, including an operational depth of up to 4,000 m (13,000 ft).

AUVs are becoming more and more capable as the years go by, and are now extremely useful underwater tools utilized for numerous applications. Back in November 2014, a SeaBED AUV was used to map more than 500,000 square meters (5.4 million sq ft) of the Antarctic, showing that sea ice may be thicker than we thought. More recently, a Gavia AUV was used to study the distribution of algae on the underside of ice.

Lockheed Martin is no stranger to unmanned vehicles, and clearly understands the potential of such craft, announcing today that SeaRobotics will manufacture its brand new Marlin Mk3 survey and inspection AUV.

The Marlin is designed for commercial customers, fitted with numerous sensors that allow it to perform complex remote surveys and operations such as deepwater pipeline inspections. The Mk3 has some impressive capabilities, being fitted with a 44 kWh battery that lets it run for up to 24 hours. With that amount of juice, it'll be able to travel in excess of 100 km (62 miles) before a recharge is needed.

Depending on the requirements of the customer, the Marlin Mk3 can be outfitted with different sensor setups, giving it high-resolution video capabilities, still photos, laser profilers and synthetic aperture sonars. It's able to collect data, and process and analyze its findings autonomously, and will work at depths of up to 4,000 m.

It's an impressive and versatile-looking craft, and as far as Lockheed Martin is concerned, one that will change the game when it comes to AUVs.

"Lockheed Martin's Marlin Mk3 allows offshore service provides to take on a wider range of deepwater survey and inspection operations than other AUVs, an its plug and play design enables rapid adoption of new sensor, navigation, communication and energy technologies," says the company's Rich Holmberg.

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