We have seen how drone can be made to fly and crawl like a bat, now meet one that draws its inspiration from duck, allowing it to fly and swim. This latest drone development dubbed Flimmer (for flying and swimming) is, not surprisingly, the work of U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with the aim to provide airborne delivery method for unmanned under vehicles or UUVs. The rationale behind it is simple: underwater vehicles are subjected to resistant from water body, thus limiting their top speed, which in turns slow down its delivery. However, if it can swim i.e. sail like a boat, delivery could be a little faster and if you could fly, then it is even better as it will not be at the mercy of the resistant posed by water, which is said to be 1,000 times less than water.
Though inspired by ducks, it looks nothing like the aquatic bird. Instead, it has a submarine-like fuselage and wings of fixed wing aircraft. According to a report, the test flying submarine can achieve over 50 knots in the air, and makes a top speed of 10 knots when underwater which highlight the benefit of a flying sub. The team behind the flying sub is currently experimenting with floodable wings (to decrease the buoyancy for dives) and adopting a more fish-like design with pectoral fins to mimic the movement of a fish called the bird wrasse.
However, getting it to behave like a real fish means having movable fins, which may not stand up to the impact when hitting the water at relatively high speed and while beefing them up could be a solution, it will inevitably introduced added weight, which is clearly not ideal. So, the challenge now is to bring all the desired elements together and making them work as they should without trade offs. With the drone technologies we are seeing today, we will not be surprise to see, in near future, a UUV that looks pretty much like a flying fish.