Construction starts on anti-submarine drone

The military’s ambitious plan to build an anti-submarine drone is taking shape.

Defense contractor Leidos has begun construction on the ACTUV (Autonomous Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel), which is designed to track enemy submarines across vast oceans for months at a time.

Commissioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project, ACTUV will perform a host of missions, from reconnaissance to surveillance.  The trimaran, or three-hulled ship, will use sensors to track quiet diesel electric submarines. It will also be equipped with long and short range radar.

Situational sensors will ensure that the ACTUV avoids other shipping, according to Leidos, which says that the vessel will require minimum human input.

DARPA is keen to build an unmanned vessel for submarine hunting, removing the need for crew quarters and many other features of a traditional ship. A human is not intended to step aboard the ACTUV at any point during its operating cycle.

“It would help keep our troops out of harm's way and provide capability in more harsh environmental conditions for a longer period of time," said Leidos Group President John Fratamico, in a statement.

DARPA even used crowdsourcing in the early stages of the project, offering ‘Dangerous Waters,’ an ACTUV Tactics Simulator, to gamers via for free download. The agency then reviewed gamers’ strategies in an attempt to improve the drone’s tactical capabilities.

Construction will last 15 months. The vessel is expected to set sail for testing on the Columbia River in 2015.