Military

Royal Navy looks to nature for futuristic sub concepts

The Nautilus 100 mothership would act as a major command and control hub, information collector and disseminator, weapon carrier and underwater flagship
The Nautilus 100 mothership would act as a major command and control hub, information collector and disseminator, weapon carrier and underwater flagship
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The Eel Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUVs) would be the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers, and would be launched from the weapons bays on the top surfaces of the mothership
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The Eel Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUVs) would be the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers, and would be launched from the weapons bays on the top surfaces of the mothership
Dissolve on demand micro UUVs
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Dissolve on demand micro UUVs
Flying Fish drones  with assorted modular payloads, such as shockwave emitters, electromagnetic pulses (EMP), cluster missiles or individual warheads
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Flying Fish drones  with assorted modular payloads, such as shockwave emitters, electromagnetic pulses (EMP), cluster missiles or individual warheads
The Flying Fish swarm drones
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The Flying Fish swarm drones
The 3-D printed hull of the Nautilus 100 mothership would be a combination of light but strong acrylic materials bonded to super-strong alloys capable of withstanding the extreme pressure at depths of 1,000 m or more
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The 3-D printed hull of the Nautilus 100 mothership would be a combination of light but strong acrylic materials bonded to super-strong alloys capable of withstanding the extreme pressure at depths of 1,000 m or more
Anechoic coatings formed by nanometre thin graphene "scales" would be layered to create a skin of the Nautilus 100
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Anechoic coatings formed by nanometre thin graphene "scales" would be layered to create a skin of the Nautilus 100
The Nautilus 100 mothership would have advanced multi spectral, low power active and passive sensors moulded into the hull
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The Nautilus 100 mothership would have advanced multi spectral, low power active and passive sensors moulded into the hull
The Nautilus 100 mothership would act as a major command and control hub, information collector and disseminator, weapon carrier and underwater flagship
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The Nautilus 100 mothership would act as a major command and control hub, information collector and disseminator, weapon carrier and underwater flagship
The Eels' would use blue-green laser energy to communicate, forming a self-meshing underwater network
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The Eels' would use blue-green laser energy to communicate, forming a self-meshing underwater network
Flying Fish drones would use their wings to fly close to the surface or as fins underwater
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Flying Fish drones would use their wings to fly close to the surface or as fins underwater
UUVs  would be engineered to dissolve after pre-determined time periods so if deployed in enemy waters they would be virtually undetectable
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UUVs  would be engineered to dissolve after pre-determined time periods so if deployed in enemy waters they would be virtually undetectable
UUVs could have a role for escort duties of foreign submarines or vessels detected in British areas of interest
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UUVs could have a role for escort duties of foreign submarines or vessels detected in British areas of interest

In 2015, the Royal Navy released its concept of the surface warship of 2050. Now the RN is casting its crystal ball beyond 2050 by asking a team of young engineers from UKNEST to develop concepts for future British submarines. With designs that mimic sea animals, the manned and unmanned concept undersea vessels are intended to handle a variety of tasks in a future world experiencing intense competition between nations for ocean resources.

Today's submarines may have become much more sophisticated in the past 40 years, but the basic design, construction, and missions of attack and ballistic missile submarines hasn't changed much. However, the 21st century is likely to be very different from the days of the Cold War, with increasing competition over undersea territory and resources as emerging regional powers flex their muscles and aquaculture, mining, and industry move away from the coasts and into the deep oceans.

Since this scenario would bring new military challenges, the Royal Navy tasked UKNEST, a forum founded in 2005 to promote the engineering, science and technology interests of UK Naval Defence, to come up with some blue-sky concepts to explore how new technology can address new threats and protect British assets and freedom of navigation. Taking nature as their inspiration, the graduate and apprentice engineers came up with ideas that melded bleeding-edge technology with simplified complex systems to produce more flexible and cheaper vessels.

The Nautilus 100 mothership

The 3-D printed hull of the Nautilus 100 mothership would be a combination of light but strong acrylic materials bonded to super-strong alloys capable of withstanding the extreme pressure at depths of 1,000 m or more
The 3-D printed hull of the Nautilus 100 mothership would be a combination of light but strong acrylic materials bonded to super-strong alloys capable of withstanding the extreme pressure at depths of 1,000 m or more

The first and keystone concept is the Nautilus 1000 mothership. A cross between a whale and a manta ray, the Nautilus is conceived as a command and control submarine that not only acts as an information hub, but is also a weapons carrier.

Thanks to advanced autonomous systems and "neuro-interfacing" that allows control by thought, the submarine only needs a crew of about 20. In a further biomimetic touch, steering and depth control would be by means of flexible wingtips that can alter their shape like a living fish.

The 3D-printed acrylic hull would be bonded to super-strong alloys to give it enough strength to withstand depths of over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) while providing more speed and stealth. For added stealth, the Nautilus has a skin of anechoic, nanometer-thin scales that are bonded with a piezoelectric material that allows them to be realigned to reduce drag (and therefore noise), as well as absorb incoming sonar pings.

Anechoic coatings formed by nanometre thin graphene "scales" would be layered to create a skin of the Nautilus 100
Anechoic coatings formed by nanometre thin graphene "scales" would be layered to create a skin of the Nautilus 100

For power, the Nautilus uses hybrid algae-electric propulsion in cruise mode, with a large-scale tunnel drive operating on the same principle as Dyson bladeless fans that force through water like a smooth jet. Where more speed is needed, Casimir-effect force batteries that use an advanced quantum effect to store energy would provide large amounts of power in short bursts.

These speed bursts are enhanced by the ability of the Nautilus to encapsulate itself in a super-cavitating air bubble created by lasers on the leading edge of the submarine that boil the water ahead of it while outlets stabilize and direct the flow over the hull. The result is that the Nautilus can hit speeds of up to 150 knots (173 mi, 278 km/h).

The Nautilus's advanced multispectral, low-power active and passive sensors are molded into the hull itself. In addition, there is a recovery bay for docking with underwater stations as well as releasing and recovering drones and decoys.

The Eel

The Eel Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUVs) would be the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers, and would be launched from the weapons bays on the top surfaces of the mothership
The Eel Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUVs) would be the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers, and would be launched from the weapons bays on the top surfaces of the mothership

The Eel is an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) that would act as the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers for the Nautilus. These drones would be capably of complete autonomy and are launched from weapon bays on the top of the submarine. As the name suggests, the Eel is based on the fishes of the same name, but the similarity is more than just a moniker. The Eel has a sinuous body that moves with an eel-like sine wave propulsion motion, which the designers say would allows it to disguise itself as a marine animal to fool enemy sensors.

Like some of today's experimental robots, the Eel is designed to operate in swarms connected by blue-green lasers for communications to form a self-meshing underwater network for secure command and control over hundreds of miles. The job of the Eels is to listen for residual sounds of electromagnetic disturbances that help to detect enemy assets and to help the swarm's artificial intelligence to assess battleground situations.

Micro UUVs

UUVs  would be engineered to dissolve after pre-determined time periods so if deployed in enemy waters they would be virtually undetectable
UUVs  would be engineered to dissolve after pre-determined time periods so if deployed in enemy waters they would be virtually undetectable

The Eels would carry a number of micro-drones that are 3D printed from cold saltwater-soluble polymers, similar to the ones used to make washing machine liquitabs. Like the Eels, they operate in swarms and are designed for reconnaissance. In addition, these micro UUVs can free up regular naval forces by forming defensive screens around British undersea assets or acting as escorts for intruding foreign vessels to herd them back to international waters.

But the party piece of the micro UUVs is that they can be programmed to dissolve at a set time. This not only allows then to be deployed on one-way missions into hostile territory without the danger of being captured, but they also become adhesive when they start to dissolve, so they can be used to block water uptakes and intakes to disable ships.

Flying Fish

The Flying Fish swarm drones
The Flying Fish swarm drones

The Nautilus would equipped with torpedoes for defense, but its main armament are its Flying Fish drones. These are an adaptable weapons system for engaging with surface ships, submarines, and land targets. Like the Eel, the name is descriptive in that the Flying Fish mimics its namesake. Its wings also double as fins and it has a combination of microturbines and plasma batteries for propulsion.

This design would allow the Flying Fish to change in a flash from flying to swimming and let it stay just above the sea surface or just below. This is an area of huge noise and turbulence that makes it hard to lock onto the Flying Fish, which can dive when it detects radar or fly when it detects active sonar.

For its sting, the Flying Fish is modular, with a choice of payloads that include conventional explosives, cluster warheads, shockwave emitters, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons.

Flying Fish drones  with assorted modular payloads, such as shockwave emitters, electromagnetic pulses (EMP), cluster missiles or individual warheads
Flying Fish drones  with assorted modular payloads, such as shockwave emitters, electromagnetic pulses (EMP), cluster missiles or individual warheads

"The Royal Navy's future success rests on developing the skills and expertise that will keep us one step ahead of the competition," says Captain Sharon Malkin, the Royal Navy's head of Innovation. "That's why the Royal Navy has joined with our partners to unveil Nautilus 100. These concepts demonstrate that the UK has the creative foresight to consider the future underwater world, what it might look like, and what role the Royal Navy might play. Most importantly, we want to help inspire the next generation of British scientists and engineers to be bold in their ambitions."

Source: UKNEXT

11 comments
Trevor Wrn
Well obviously someone remembers Voyage to the bottom of the Sea and the flying sub
Bob
What happens when a 173mph submarine runs into a whale, large shark or giant squid? How about discarded fishing nets or a few underwater mines?
cliff21
Gee .. it looks like the flying submarine from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.. from back in the 60's time frame.. any takers on a bet that the designers watched it as kids or saw reruns?
ljaques
Wild, wooly, and wonderful. I love the Nautilus 1000. The part about stealth followed by the description of its drive left me LOL. Supercavitating air bubbles produced by massive lasers on the front sound really stealthy, don't they? VBG. Well, she's sleek and beautiful, in any case. I hope they make her.
Signguy
Well, as we've found out, when it's based on nature, it has a much better chance of 'survival' or creation in the real world.
Ralf Biernacki
<p> While I find the concept of dissolving drones clogging up intakes intriguing, the Nautilus as shown is a ridiculous hydrodynamic dud. The manta ray is shaped as it is because: 1. it uses its wings for main propulsion, so they must be large enough, 2. it swims slowly, so the viscous drag on these wings is less of an issue, and 3. it is pressure-equalized with the surrounding water, so these flat surfaces need not sustain pressure loadings. <p> But for a submarine that uses wings for steering only, these surfaces are grossly oversized, and they would cause devastating form drag at any but the slowest speeds. Not to mention that they seem ideally designed to reflect sonar pulses from surface-based sub hunters. And the shape is just about the worst possible for pressure support, so the actual pressure hull would have to be confined to the central tubular section. <p> I realize that this design has been put forward by "graduate and apprentice engineers" but the Navy did have a chance to vet these concepts; and besides, even graduate and apprentice _engineers_ ought to know better. This thing looks like it's been dreamed up by graduate and apprentice filmmakers. What is the UK doing wrong with its tech education? <p> I have no major issues with the remaining designs, although the wing planform of the Flying Fish looks fishy to me. But that's a minor detail, compared to the preposterous Nautilus.
Lamar Havard
The Nautilus 100 'Mothership' was ripped off directly from the scout sub from 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' TV series.
Expanded Viewpoint
Yes, it does look quite a lot like the sub from VTTBOTS, and also I believe it was Jacques Cousteau who came up with a similar idea in the late 60s or early 70s for a mini sub that was made out of two dishes of high strength steel welded together with a flat or recessed viewing port on the front edge. I don't know the spelling of the word, but it was French for "saucer". Anyone else remember that thing? How long could a dissolving drone muck up the works of a sub? Wouldn't it eventually completely dissolve? Ah yes, plasma batteries, I saw some for sale on eBay by the same good folks who are also purveyors of warp coils, flux capacitors and such. They have a sale going on right now for torque, fifty kilo bags of the stuff for only one hundred pounds Sterling. If you need stream line, they've got that too, 100 meters for only 30 quid! Prop wash? That's the real deal of the day, 100 cubic meters for only 50 quid! How do they maintain those prices?!?! Yeah, right. Randy
Wolf0579
While somewhat reminiscent of "Voyage to the bottom of the Sea", I find the designs are more reflective of a short-lived TV series called "SeaQuest DSV" Whatever the inspiration, go for it! New materials and science will allow, if not force, new designs.
Ralf Biernacki
No amount of "new materials and science" will allow you to blissfully ignore the three main constraints that any submarine is subject to, that is: high pressure, flow resistance, and sonar detection. And the Nautilus is a fail on all three counts.