Navy unveils new underwater drone

SAN DIEGO - The Navy Wednesday unveiled what could be the future of unmanned vehicles.

When other kids were playing with toys, Wayne Liu was making them better and faster.

"When the Navy came along and said, 'I'll tell you what, we'll let you test out submarines and planes and aircraft carriers,' that was a like an offer too good to be true," Liu explained.

He has served for 25 years, and he is thrilled about the latest project he is taking part.

Unmanned vehicles can run out of juice after nine hours or 90. Recharging them can be dicey.

"You haul it out of the water in front of everybody onto a ship," Liu said.

That puts eyes on our underwater eyes. That is where the Undersea Power and Data Station (uPODS) comes in.

U.S. Third Fleet unveiled it at Naval Base Point Loma on Wednesday. It could be the next line of new and improved unmanned vehicles.

"The uPod is basically a self-serve gas station for unmanned vehicles," Liu explained.

It does it with energy. It wirelessly charges docked unmanned vehicles, and it soaks up the sun and even pumps power into itself.

If it is in the middle of the ocean with no service, it has what is basically a WiFi hotspot, so you can control it and collect data.

"The reason why it's cost effective for the taxpayers is that the Navy doesn't have to do everything by themselves," Liu added.

U.S. Third Fleet worked with Maritime Tactical Systems, Inc. (MARTAC) and Booz Allen Hamilton, which built a 360-degree hi-def DVR with infrared capabilities. It can also tow items for capture.

It does dangerous work so servicemembers do not have to, and it is a project Liu is proud of.

"That's pretty exciting," Liu said.

It is just one of 41 experiments in a program called Trident Warrior, which the Navy will test this summer.

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