Marine

Autonomous sub finds long-lost supersonic aircraft from the 50s

Autonomous sub finds long-lost...
The "Raise the Arrow" team gathers for a photo behind the AUV
The "Raise the Arrow" team gathers for a photo behind the AUV
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The Avro Arrow is rolled out to the public
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The Avro Arrow is rolled out to the public
The "Raise the Arrow" team gathers for a photo behind the AUV
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The "Raise the Arrow" team gathers for a photo behind the AUV
A flight model of the Arrow, on the bed of Lake Ontario
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A flight model of the Arrow, on the bed of Lake Ontario
One of the Arrow flight models, mounted atop a booster rocket
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One of the Arrow flight models, mounted atop a booster rocket
This sonar image from the ThunderFish AUV clearly shows fragments detected in Lake Ontario
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This sonar image from the ThunderFish AUV clearly shows fragments detected in Lake Ontario

Early last year, we first heard about Fraunhofer's DEDAVE (Deep Diving AUV for Exploration) unmanned submersible. Then this July, we got word of an initiative aimed at locating sunken flight models of a famous Canadian jet fighter, the Avro Arrow. Now, the two have come together – Fraunhofer is reporting that one of its DEDAVEs has located a couple of of the models.

To recap, the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow was a state-of-the-art delta-winged fighter built in the 1950s. The project was scrapped by the federal government in 1959, however, and all six completed (or near-complete) aircraft were ordered to be destroyed. Although the planes are now long-gone, a new project was launched this year to retrieve nine scale models from the bottom of Lake Ontario.

Measuring 3 meters long with a 2-meter wingspan (10 x 6.5 ft), those models were launched by booster rockets in a series of flights between 1954 and 1957 to test the aerodynamics of the aircraft design, prior to a production model being built. They reached supersonic speeds, and transmitted flight data back to ground crews as they flew, before ultimately landing in the lake and sinking.

One of the Arrow flight models, mounted atop a booster rocket
One of the Arrow flight models, mounted atop a booster rocket

Project partner Kraken Robotics Inc. has been using a DEDAVE to search the lake bottom for those models – the submersible was renamed the ThunderFish Alpha for the project. It began performing sonar scans starting at the end of July, and succeeded in locating two of the models in September. They're due to be salvaged before the end of the year.

Billed as "the world's first autonomous underwater vehicle [AUV] to be developed from the outset with a view to series production," the DEDAVE is designed to be easily manufactured on an assembly line, and thus relatively inexpensive to buy. At less than 700 kg (1,543 lb) it's also quite light for an AUV, and can travel autonomously for up to 20 hours on one charge of its eight batteries, diving to a maximum depth of 6,000 meters (19,685 ft).

The search for the remaining models has been put on hold for the winter, and is scheduled to resume next June.

Source: Fraunhofer

4 comments
aki009
Can't wait for them to take a swarm of those to start looking for MH370 again...
notarichman
i can understand how DEDAVE would work in a lake, but how about where currents exist? i.e. ocean currents or river currents. i know of a really big boulder in the ocean made of jade that is too dangerous for divers to recover because of ocean currents. could dedave recover it by either pulling a net over it or drilling into it and installing "bolts" with cables to salvage it?
JohnAyer
Could a DEDAVE be contracted to search the slopes off Nikumaroro for a missing Lockheed Electra?
Gregg Eshelman
The Arrow wasn't a fighter. It was intended to be a super fast nuclear bomber interceptor, like the MiG 25. When the USSR failed to produce supersonic nuclear bombers, instead producing ICBMs, the need for a supersonic bomber interceptor went buh-bye. Still a shame that the Arrows were scrapped instead of being preserved in museums. What's a real puzzle is why the Canadians didn't shop the Orenda Iroquois engines around. Surely some other country would've been interested, possibly enough to recoup the money spent not building the Arrow. The Soviets apparently didn't get the memo that the USA decided not to produce the B-70, so they put the MiG 25 into production. It wasn't any use against our Blackbirds, they could outrun the MiG 25.